Biden to Require Federal Workers to Get Vaccine or Frequent Tests
(Bloomberg) -- President Joe Biden is expected to announce Thursday that federal workers will be required to prove they’ve been vaccinated against Covid-19 or submit to frequent coronavirus testing and other mitigation steps, according to a person familiar with the matter.
A vaccine mandate won’t be finalized until Thursday, the person said. A second person familiar with the matter said a federal vaccine mandate is under strong consideration.
The plan comes amid a spike in cases fueled by vaccine holdouts, which allowed the highly contagious delta variant to spread across the country.
Biden said Tuesday he was weighing a vaccine requirement for federal workers, and he’ll deliver a speech on the U.S. fight against the pandemic on Thursday. Federal workers who do not confirm they are vaccinated may be required to wear masks, even in communities without substantial virus spread, in addition to undergoing regular tests, according to the second person.
The Biden administration is laying out a series of steps to beat back the virus surge, which poses not just a major public health challenge but a serious political threat to the president. Biden had counted on plummeting case rates to anchor the economic recovery and his policy agenda.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tightened its mask guidance on Tuesday, advising Americans to wear masks in public indoor places located in areas with substantial spread, regardless of vaccination status. That led the White House on Tuesday to force staff and reporters to begin covering their faces again while inside the complex, after the District of Columbia’s case rate spiked.
The vaccine mandate for federal workers also follows a Monday announcement by the Department of Veterans Affairs to require all its front-line health care workers to be vaccinated.
The International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers, an AFL-CIO affiliate that represents roughly 30,000 federal workers, said it “fully supports” a vaccination requirement for the federal workforce.
“This is not an easy decision President Biden made, but it’s the right one for our members and for the nation,” the union said in a statement. Other labor groups representing federal employees have not yet weighed in.
The U.S. recorded more than 71,000 new cases on Tuesday, driving the rolling seven-day average up to 59,700, according to the Bloomberg Covid-19 Tracker. The average case rate is more than four times higher than it was three weeks ago, before the delta variant became the dominant U.S. strain.
CNN and NBC News reported earlier that he would issue a vaccine mandate for federal workers.
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