President Joe Biden is set to deliver a major address on the next phase of his pandemic response this week, two sources familiar with the speech tell CNN.
While officials were still finalizing specifics early this week, the speech will have multiple components related to schools, private companies and requirements for federal employees. It’s the most they have done to date, one person said. The speech was initially slated for Wednesday, but a White House official told CNN later Tuesday morning that the timing is still fluid and would instead come on Thursday.
“On Thursday, the President will speak to the American people about his robust plan to stop the spread of the Delta variant and boost vaccinations. As the President has said since Day 1, his administration will pull every lever to get the pandemic under control. On Thursday, the President will lay out a six-pronged strategy that will help us do just that, working across the public and private sectors,” the official said.
The crafting of the next steps has been led by Biden’s coronavirus team. There are still certain limitations on what the administration can do, and the expectation is still that the federal government cannot order a broad mandate on vaccinations, which officials have said publicly before.
The speech comes as Biden has seen a significant drop in Americans’ confidence in his handling of the pandemic. A recent Washington Post-ABC poll showed it dropped to 52% from 62% in late June.
The administration is juggling how to persuade more Americans to get vaccinated against Covid-19 while working to make a third shot of the vaccine available in the fall, as schools return and cases due to the highly transmissible Delta variant have been on the rise.
Amid warnings about the risk of Covid-19 outbreaks occurring again within schools unless mitigation measures are followed, pressure is building for vaccines to be authorized for children younger than 12 and for booster shots to begin. West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice on Monday said his state is ready to administer third shots if the federal government would only give the go-ahead.
Biden administration had initially said last month that a third dose of the Covid-19 vaccine would be made available for adults later this month. But top health officials warned the White House that they may need more time to review all the necessary data before they can recommend booster shots, CNN and other news outlets reported.
Appearing on CNN’s “State of the Union,” White House chief of staff Ron Klain was reluctant to give a specific date as to when booster shots would be made available to the public but committed to waiting for full approval from health officials.
Meanwhile, the US Food and Drug Administration is set to meet September 17 to discuss Covid-19 booster shots.
As for vaccine requirements, the White House has repeatedly said there won’t be a federally mandated vaccine passport but has been pushing other ways to increase vaccination rates.
The Biden administration also already requires federal workers and government contractors to attest to being vaccinated – and mandates that certain federal workers be vaccinated – or adhere to strict protocols such as regular testing, while hoping that the private sector will follow its lead.
The President also ordered all nursing homes to require their staff be vaccinated against Covid-19 in order to continue receiving Medicare and Medicaid funding.
This story has been updated with additional reporting on the timing of Biden’s speech.
CNN’s John Harwood contributed to this report.