‘People are dying who don’t have to die’: Biden urges states to offer $100 vaccine incentive as Delta variant fuels infections surge
President Joe Biden has called on states and local authorities in the US to offer residents $100 (£71) to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
State and local governments will be able to access a $350bn (£250bn) coronavirus aid fund to pay for the incentives, the US Treasury has promised.
Federal workers and onsite contractors will also have to prove they are vaccinated, or else wear face masks, be socially distanced, and do regular testing.
Military personnel will have the COVID-19 vaccination added to the jabs they are already required to have.
Mr Biden said he wanted America’s four million federal employees to set an example to private employers and other citizens.
COVID-19 cases are rising rapidly in the US, fuelled by the highly-transmissible Delta variant, which is particularly dangerous for those who have not been vaccinated.
Mr Biden aimed to have 70% of adults at least partially vaccinated by 4 July, but the latest figure shows 69.3% are partially vaccinated and about 60% are fully vaccinated.
“It’s a pandemic of the unvaccinated,” Mr Biden said in a White House address on Thursday.
“People are dying who don’t have to die.”
Lawrence Gostin, a professor of global health law at Georgetown University Law School, was optimistic that Mr Biden’s plan could work.
“People would much rather roll up their sleeves and get a jab, than undergo weekly testing and universal masking,” he said.
“In many ways, this is really not a mandate, it’s giving workers a choice.”
Mr Biden wants private businesses to follow his lead by imposing burdens for those who are not vaccinated.
Some larger businesses are already there: Facebook and Google have announced employees will have to prove they have been vaccinated before returning to work.
Airlines Delta and United are requiring new employees to show proof of vaccination, and finance firms Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley want workers to disclose their vaccination status but have stopped short of requiring them to be inoculated.
Jeff Hyman, a Chicago-based business author and recruiter for start-up companies, said: “I think we’ve reached this tipping point, and Mr Biden’s announcement will provide a lot of air cover for companies and boards of directors who have difficult decisions facing them.”
The White House is no longer gently encouraging vaccinations – analysis by Martha Kelner, US correspondent
We are at a pivotal point in the pandemic in the US with the Delta variant taking a firm grip and sending hospitalisations soaring in certain areas, prompting this urgent intervention from President Biden.
This was an address to the nation from the president, but aimed specifically at the unvaccinated, to whom he implored: “You don’t have to die”.
The take-up of the vaccine is divided along political and geographical lines, with just 34% of people in Alabama fully vaccinated, compared with 68% of people in Vermont.
Until now, the Biden administration had been content to allow corporate America to take the lead on mandatory vaccination and many Silicon Valley companies, like Facebook and Google, have banned employees from the office unless they get vaccinated.
Other companies have said employees can either get the vaccine or they will get fired.
But the dramatic rise in hospitalisations in the last few weeks has led to a shift in policy from the White House, which is no longer gently encouraging vaccinations but taking a significant step towards a firm order.
But the plan will not go through without opposition.
More than 100 bills have been introduced at state level banning employers from requiring vaccination and at least six states have approved these bills.
Some unions are also against the idea.
Brian Rothenberg, spokesman for United Auto Workers, said the union supported the vaccine but was against requiring people to have it.
Larry Cosme, president of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, had a similar view, saying: “Forcing people to undertake a medical procedure is not the American way and is a clear civil rights violation no matter how proponents may seek to justify it.”
The Justice Department has said federal laws take precedence and none of those forbid employers from requiring vaccinations.
Derek Chauvin: George Floyd’s killer was stabbed 22 times with ‘improvised knife’ by former mafia member
Derek Chauvin – the ex-police officer jailed over the murder of George Floyd – was stabbed 22 times with an “improvised knife” in prison, it has emerged.
Fellow inmate John Turscak has been charged with attempted murder following the attack on 24 November, which was Black Friday.
The 52-year-old, a former member of the Mexican Mafia, told FBI agents he attacked Chauvin on that date as a symbolic connection to the Black Lives Matter movement.
He also revealed he had been thinking about targeting Chauvin for over a month – and said he would have killed the high-profile inmate had officers not intervened so quickly.
“Life-saving measures” were performed after the stabbing in the prison library, and Chauvin is “expected to survive”.
Turscak has also been charged with three counts of assault and could face an additional 60 years behind bars if convicted. He had been due to complete his current sentence by 2026.
He had led a faction of the Mexican Mafia in Los Angeles during the late 1990s, and went by the nickname “Stranger”.
The former gang member later became an FBI informant and recorded conversations with his associates in the hope of receiving a lighter sentence.
Chauvin had been moved to the jail in Tucson, Arizona last August – and at the time, his lawyer had called for him to be kept away from other inmates for his own protection.
The disgraced cop was convicted of second-degree murder and violating George Floyd’s civil rights after pressing a knee on his neck for nine-and-a-half minutes outside a store in Minnesota in 2020.
Mr Floyd had been suspected of using a counterfeit $20 (£16) bill, and footage from bystanders captured him telling officers “I can’t breathe”.
His death sparked protests worldwide and a national reckoning with police brutality and racism.
‘Serial killer’ hunted in LA after three homeless people shot dead
Los Angeles police are hunting a potential serial killer after three homeless people were shot dead in separate incidents.
The murders took place over a few days – between 26 and 29 November – and the city’s mayor warned rough sleepers on Friday: “Try not to be alone tonight.”
CCTV has been released of the suspect, who’s described as male and probably wearing a hoodie; as well as a dark-coloured vehicle he might be using.
LA police chief Michel Moore said a special task force had been set up “to uncover the identity of a potential serial killer preying on the most vulnerable in our community”.
The murders share similarities: all three happened in the early hours and all suspects were homeless and alone.
Mr Moore said all were shot as they were sleeping or preparing to bed down for the night.
The Los Angeles Times named them as Jose Bolanos, 37, Mark Diggs, 62, and a 52-year-old man who’s yet to be named.
Mayor Karen Bass said she had met with the housing department and homeless service and that they are doing “all we can to make shelter and services available”.
“Our message to our unhoused community is clear – try not to be alone tonight,” she said.
The mayor added: “To the many Angelenos who have friends or family who are unhoused, please let them know the danger that exists.”
George Santos expelled from House over criminal charges and damning ethics report
Republican congressman George Santos has been expelled from the House of Representatives after a report found “overwhelming evidence” he misused campaign donations.
Mr Santos was ousted 311-114 in a bipartisan vote – only the sixth time a member has been kicked out of the House since it was founded in 1789.
Two-thirds of members must support the move – but an excoriating report by the House ethics committee that accused him of breaking federal law appeared to seal his fate.
The 35-year-old led his own defence on the floor of the House and said he would “not stand by quietly”.
Speaking the evening before the vote, he said: “The people of the Third District of New York sent me here. If they want me out, you’re going to have to go silence those people and go take the hard vote.”
Mr Santos argued it would set a precedent that would make expulsions more common.
Three previous cases involved disloyalty to the Union during the American Civil War, the remaining two were after politicians were convicted of federal crimes.
A congressional investigation found he charged his campaign account nearly $4,000 (£3,151) for spa treatments, including
He also spent more than $4,000 at designer store Hermes and made “smaller purchases” from the OnlyFans site – best known for sexual content.
As the outcome of Friday’s vote became clear, Mr Santos put his coat over his shoulders, shook hands with some members who voted against his expulsion and exited the chamber.
The House Speaker solemnly instructed a clerk to inform New York’s governor that his seat was now vacant.
Mr Santos was in his first term and had been previously feted as an exciting prospect after he flipped a district from the Democrats in November 2022.
But the committee launched a probe in March after reports he lied about having Jewish ancestry and his grandparents fleeing the Nazis, working at elite investment bank Goldman Sachs, and his college degree.
It lasted eight months and found “overwhelming evidence” of law-breaking – and Mr Santos has now admitted making up much of his biography.
The US attorney’s office indicted him in May, accusing him of cheating donors, laundering campaign funds for his own personal use, and lying to Congress.
It alleged he stole donors’ identities and used their credit cards to make tens of thousands in authorised charges.
Mr Santos has pleaded not guilty to the charges and his trial is scheduled for September 2024.
“Mr Santos is not a victim. He is a perpetrator of a massive fraud on his constituents and the American people,” said Susan Wild, the top Democrat on the ethics committee.
The last person to be kicked out of the House was Democrat James Traficant over a criminal corruption conviction in 2002.
New York state governor Kathy Hochul now has 10 days to call a special election for Mr Santos’s seat.
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