President Joe Biden is set to visit Chicago on Thursday to laud his vaccination agenda as a plan to lead the country forward through the COVID-19 pandemic.
Biden was set to visit Chicago last week, but it was postponed after negotiations on Capitol Hill on infrastructure and raising the debt ceiling required him to stay in Washington. The president, however, is now back on schedule and his administration is making vaccinations the centerpiece of his trip.
Jen Psaki, the White House’s press secretary, said that the trip’s central message would be that “vaccinations work” and those who haven’t already received the vaccine should get inoculated immediately.
In Chicago, the president will be meeting with United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby, Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot and Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker, each a proponent of vaccine mandates whose policies Biden aims to highlight.
Kirby implemented a vaccine mandate for United’s 67,000 employees with close to 96% of its workforce reportedly vaccinated with at least one dose. United has threatened to fire employees for noncompliance despite a lawsuit from several former employees, who argue the airline did not provide enough accommodation for exceptions to the rule.
Both Pritzker and Lightfoot enacted vaccination mandates for government employees in their jurisdictions. Mayor Lightfoot set an Oct. 15 deadline for city employees to receive a vaccine in the face of resistance from unions for the police and other employees. Pritzker issued an executive order to require vaccination for state employees and students in August, but it has negotiated deals with state unions to encourage more vaccination.
President Biden’s approval ratings for his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic have sagged in recent months. The number of Americans who approve of the president’s handling of the response to COVID-19 has fallen precipitously since coming into office with only 49.8% now holding a positive view of his management of the crisis.
In a bid to save the U.S.’ economic recovery from a surge in infections among the unvaccinated from the Delta variant, Biden announced on Sept. 9 a sweeping executive order. Under it, all private employers with more than 100 employees would be required to be fully vaccinated or at least provide weekly testing.
The Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is currently in the process of finalizing a new rule for employers to follow in implementing the order.