- President Joe Biden toured a construction site Thursday in Elk Grove Village, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago, to reiterate that COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective, according to local news reports. He also defended his recent announcement of a vaccine mandate for companies with more than 100 workers.
- The jobsite, a Microsoft data center being built by Chicago-based contractor Clayco, mandates vaccines and requires weekly testing for those who aren't vaccinated, a key factor in Biden's choice to tour it, according to CBS's Chicago affiliate. Clayco's founder, Bob Clark, is also a major Democratic donor, according to the Chicago Sun Times.
- Construction is among the most vaccine-hesitant professions. The Center for Construction Research and Training (CPWR) estimates that only 53.8% of construction workers are vaccinated, compared to the workforce average of about 80.9% as of Sept. 26.
Following the Biden administration's announcement on Sept. 9 that a federal vaccine mandate would go into effect, the president has been touting its effectiveness and encouraging the shot.
Biden said that his administration's mandate, along with the provision that federal contractors and subcontractors must be vaccinated by Dec. 8, was "beginning to make a profound change" at the site visit.
"You saw United Airlines. United Airlines was having trouble, so they mandated it, and now they're at 90-something percent [vaccination rate]," said Biden at the site visit. The actual figure is higher — about 99.5% as of Thursday, according to NPR.
Some contractors, however, are afraid that vaccine mandates will drive away workers amid a tight labor market. A Clayco official on the site visit noted that while the company could push to vaccinate their employees, mandating it for contractors who aren't employed fully by the company is more difficult.
"We're still in the field. That's kind of where things are still a struggle. Our team all has the incentive to get vaccinated, but not all the tradespeople necessarily work for us. It's a process, and we want to get better," said the Clayco official.
Biden gave scheduled remarks prior to the site tour, where he admitted a vaccine mandate wasn't his original plan, but upheld the effectiveness of it.
"We have to beat this thing. So, while I didn't race to do it right away, that's why I've had to move toward requirements that everyone get vaccinated or I had the authority to do that. That wasn't my first instinct," said Biden during the speech. "There is no other way to beat the pandemic than to get the vast majority of the American people vaccinated."