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As the number of Omicron variant cases continues to rise in the United States, President Joe Biden said on Friday that he remains opposed to implementing vaccine requirements for domestic air travel, but is leaving the door open to changing his mind.
Biden said he didn’t think vaccine requirements for air travel within the country were necessary “at this point.”
“I continue to rely on the scientists… right now, they’re saying no,” he said.
While Biden admitted the fight against the pandemic has dragged on, he said “we’ve got to beat it back before we shut it down.”
“The idea that you can build a wall around America to keep any COVID from around the world out is not there,” Biden said, sounding fairly hoarse from a cold he said he got from his young grandson.
The address was originally intended to address Labor Department statistics that were released on Friday indicating that the American economy added just 210,000 jobs last month. Economists had expected north of 570,000 new jobs, following a revised October total of nearly 550,000.
“Our economy is remarkably stronger than it was a year ago,” Biden said from the State Dining Room of the White House, noting that the nation’s unemployment rate had fallen by nearly half a percent to 4.2 percent—its lowest rate since the coronavirus pandemic forced millions of people out of work in March 2020. “We’re looking at the sharpest one-year decline in unemployment ever.”
The “historic drop” in the unemployment rate, as Biden put it, as well as recent revisions of employment numbers—the Bureau of Labor Statistics initially estimated that only 194,000 jobs were created in September, a number that was later revised upward by more than 60 percent—has left some economists hopeful that the numbers are just off.
Biden then pivoted beyond Friday’s depressing jobs numbers to his “Build Back Better” plan, the supply chain crisis, and the government’s continued fight against COVID-19, reiterating the strategy announced on Thursday intended to prevent another winter surge of the virus and combat the troubling Omicron variant.
“This is a plan all Americans can rally behind, in my view,” Biden said.