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President Biden in Elk Grove Village boosts business vaccine requirements, takes poke at Fox News

In a suburban Chicago speech pushing businesses to mandate COVID vaccines or weekly tests, Biden said, in a stage whisper, “Fox News requires vaccinations for all employees. Give me a break. Fox News.”

President Joe Biden speaks in Elk Grove Village on Thursday.
President Joe Biden speaks in Elk Grove Village on Thursday.
Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

In an Elk Grove Village speech promoting his orders for larger businesses to mandate COVID vaccines or weekly tests, President Joe Biden on Thursday said, in a stage whisper, “Fox News requires vaccinations for all employees. Give me a break. Fox News.”

Biden’s compliment of sorts was to spotlight that even Fox, with some anchors leading the charge against vaccine mandates, has, in its role as an employer, voluntarily put in place a COVID prevention mandate.

The president did not get the totality of the Fox policy right. According to a memo from a Fox executive, some 90% of full-time employees said they were fully vaccinated; those who are not must take a daily COVID test.

Still, point made.

To drum up support for his order, issued last month, to require larger companies to mandate COVID-19 vaccines or weekly testing requirements for workers, the president visited a suburban Chicago data center that Clayco, a construction company, is building for Microsoft.

The venue was selected because Clayco, headquartered in Chicago as of Thursday, voluntarily followed Biden’s order, and is now requiring workforce vaccinations or weekly testing.

“I came here to Clayco to thank this company for doing the right thing,” Biden said.

Clayco is a building and design company founded by Bob Clark in 1984.

Clark is a major Democratic donor and fundraiser for former President Barack Obama and Biden. Clark’s company has been very supportive of Biden’s vaccine policies. The company now has 3,000 employees.

He is also a Biden administration appointee. Clark is the U.S. Commissioner General at Expo 2020 in Dubai, taking place in 2021 because of the pandemic.

The Department of Labor and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration are working out the rules employers of 100 or more must follow. The details are expected to be finalized in the weeks ahead.

Under other Biden orders, federal contractors have until Dec. 8 for workers to be fully vaccinated.

“Today, I’m calling on more employers to act,” Biden said.

“My message is: Require your employees to get vaccinated. With vaccinations, we’re going to beat this pandemic finally. Without them, we face endless months of chaos in our hospitals, damage to our economy, and anxiety in our schools, and empty restaurants, and much less commerce.

“Look, I know that vaccination requirements are a tough medicine — unpopular with some, politics for others — but they’re lifesaving. They’re game changing for our country. We’re in a position to leap forward in a way that we haven’t for a long, long time economically.

“Businesses have more power than ever before to change the arc of this pandemic and save lives, and protect and grow our economy. So, as president, I’m going to continue to do everything I can to get us out of this pandemic. I look forward to more businesses joining that effort.”

Biden applauded Gov. J.B. Pritzker for steps he is taking to encourage vaccination. “You’ve done one hell of a job, in terms of encouraging people before we even get to the mandate.”

The president’s trip to the Elk Grove Village Technology Park complex comes as his administration is stepping up making the case for vaccines, appealing to people who are persuadable and need their doubts addressed, as opposed to anti-vaxxers whose opposition to the shots is rooted in politics.

The Biden administration is stressing that vaccine mandates are not new. What is new is the Trump-era political climate that has weaponized COVID-19 pandemic masks, social distancing and vaccines.

“Folks, vaccination requirements work, and there’s nothing new about them,” Biden said.

“They’ve been around for decades. We’ve been living with these requirements throughout our lives. Students, health care professionals, our troops have been required to receive vaccinations for everything from polio to measles, to mumps, to rubella. And the reason most people in America don’t worry about polio, measles, mumps, rubella is because they’ve been vaccinated.”

President Joe Biden discusses COVID-19 vaccine requirements during a speech at a Clayco construction site in Elk Grove Village, Thursday afternoon, Oct. 7, 2021.
President Joe Biden discusses COVID-19 vaccine requirements during a speech at a Clayco construction site in Elk Grove Village, Thursday afternoon, Oct. 7, 2021.
Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

In a statement, Clayco said, “We are extremely supportive of President Biden’s plan to require vaccinations or weekly testing at employers with more than 100 employees, and today we are announcing that we will expand our system of requiring vaccinations or testing to all of our employees, in line with the President’s requirements.”

President Joe Biden joins Gov. J.B. Pritzker and workers on a tour of a data center under construction by Clayco in Elk Grove Village, Thursday afternoon, Oct. 7, 2021.
President Joe Biden joins Gov. J.B. Pritzker and workers on a tour of a data center under construction by Clayco in Elk Grove Village, Thursday afternoon, Oct. 7, 2021.
Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Biden also saluted United Airlines, headquartered in Chicago, and its CEO, Scott Kirby, for leading the way on employee mandatory vaccine requirements.

According to United, about 99.7% of its employees have been vaccinated, not counting 2,000 who have applied for religious or medical exemptions.

The United vaccine policy applies to 67,000 U.S.-based employees. There are 232 employees who chose not to get vaccinated and will not be able to keep their jobs.

Biden appealed to employers’ economic self-interest to mandate vaccines. “It’s in our own naked interest. If we haven’t learned before, you can’t build a wall high enough to keep out — you can’t,” said Biden.

This visit to the site was originally scheduled for Sept. 29 and canceled so Biden could remain at the White House to negotiate with Democrats over stalled legislation containing all of his major domestic agenda items.

LIGHTFOOT/BIDEN TIFF? Here’s what we know so far. Something happened that led to Biden offering an invitation for Mayor Lori Lightfoot to join him in his limo for the ride from O’Hare to Elk Grove Village. Originally, she was to greet him at the airport and attend the Elk Grove event. Sources said an issue for Lightfoot was her “treatment.” A clue: Lightfoot was a late add to the speaking program. Lightfoot left before Biden spoke. Usual White House protocol is that a mayor speaks when a president is in the mayor’s town.

From a White House official: “The president was happy to see the mayor at the tarmac and have time with her there and at the event.” From City Hall: Lightfoot and Biden “had a private conversation.”

DNC DONORS: After his speech, Biden, still in the complex, took photos with Democratic National Committee donors and fundraisers. Among those present was former Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, who served in the Obama/Biden administration.

JILL BIDEN: Jill Biden hits Chicago on Tuesday for her first visit to the city as first lady.

Pritzker, Lightfoot and Rep. Mike Quigley, D-Ill., — whose district includes O’Hare — and Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, who district includes the part of Elk Grove Village with the Clayco complex, greeted the president on the tarmac after Air Force One landed. Also attending were Chicago area labor leaders and Illinois Democratic Reps. Lauren Underwood; Bob Foster; Jan Schakowsky; Robin Kelly; Danny Davis; Sean Casten; Bobby Rush; Brad Schneider; and Marie Newman. Plus Elk Grove Village Mayor Craig Johnson, Lt. Gov. Julianna Stratton, Senate President Don Harmon and Elk Grove Village Mayor Craig Johnson.

(From left) Illinois Democratic U.S. Reps. Lauren Underwood, Bill Foster, Jan Schakowsky, Robin Kelly, Danny Davis and Sean Casten pose for a photo shorty before President Joe Biden is scheduled to visit and discuss COVID-19 vaccine requirements at a Clayco, Inc. construction site in Elk Grove Village, Thursday, Oct. 7, 2021.
(From left) Illinois Democratic U.S. Reps. Lauren Underwood, Bill Foster, Jan Schakowsky, Robin Kelly, Danny Davis and Sean Casten pose for a photo shortly before President Joe Biden is scheduled to visit and discuss COVID-19 vaccine requirements at a Clayco, Inc. construction site in Elk Grove Village, Thursday, Oct. 7, 2021.
Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

The Biden administration on Thursday released a report containing arguments for businesses to back vaccinations, titled, “Vaccination Requirements Are Helping Vaccinate More People, Protect Americans from COVID-19, and Strengthen the Economy. “Vaccination requirements in private businesses and public employers are becoming the standard,” the report stated. “Currently, one in four companies have instituted a vaccination requirement and an additional 13% of companies plan to put a requirement in place in the months ahead.”

Supporters of former President Donald Trump protest on East Higgins Road near Brennan Boulevard, hours before President Joe Biden would make a speech about COVID-19 vaccine requirements at a Clayco, Inc. construction site nearby, Thursday, Oct. 7, 2021.
Supporters of former President Donald Trump protest on East Higgins Road near Brennan Boulevard, hours before President Joe Biden would make a speech about COVID-19 vaccine requirements at a Clayco, Inc. construction site nearby, Thursday, Oct. 7, 2021.
Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times