Biden would require federal employees to get the Covid vaccine or undergo testing
President Joe Biden this week is expected to announce his administration will require federal workers to be vaccinated for the coronavirus or else submit to strict testing measures, NBC News reported Wednesday.
Biden is set to unveil the new rules, which followed a White House internal policy review, during a speech Thursday, two administration officials told NBC. It is unclear when the changes would go into effect.
Biden is also expected to announce new steps that his administration is taking to try and boost the U.S. vaccination rate, which has slowed significantly in recent months and fallen below prior White House goals, NBC reported.
The new measures arrive as the highly transmissible delta variant spreads around the world, including in the U.S., where it represents a huge proportion of new infections.
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Public health officials warn that the U.S. could face another surge in cases in the fall. They also point out that the overwhelming majority of people hospitalized or killed by Covid are unvaccinated, and that “breakthrough infections” among the vaccinated tend to be milder.
In preparation, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday reversed its guidance on wearing masks indoors. The CDC now recommends that fully vaccinated people and kids once again start wearing masks indoors in places with high Covid transmission rates, as well as in schools.
That same day, Biden said it was “under consideration” whether the White House would require all federal employees to be vaccinated.
One government agency has already taken the plunge. On Monday, the Department of Veterans Affairs announced it would order its health-care workers to get inoculated. VA Secretary Denis McDonough said it was “the best way to keep Veterans safe.”
Biden also backed the CDC’s latest mask guidance. And on Tuesday night, the White House Office of Management and Budget told federal agencies they must mandate masks for employees inside all federal buildings in high-transmission areas, according to NBC.
The White House had yet to decide on a vaccine requirement as recently as Tuesday night.
A source familiar with the deliberations told CNBC at that time that a system of “attestation of vaccination” — in which federal workers would have to confirm their vaccination status or comply with safety measures such as mask-wearing and regular testing — was “one option under strong consideration.”