(Headline USA) Hoping to set a model for employers nationwide, President Joe Biden will announce Thursday that millions of federal workers must show proof they’ve received a coronavirus vaccine or submit to regular testing and stringent social distancing, masking and travel restrictions.
An individual familiar with the president’s plans, who spoke on condition of anonymity to confirm details that had yet to be announced publicly, emphasized that the new guidance is not a vaccine mandate for federal employees and that those who decide not to get vaccinated aren’t at risk of being fired.
But the new rules amount to a distinction without a difference.
The new policy by the Biden administration is driven largely by the spread of the so-called “delta variant,” which is even less lethal than the original COVID-19, which has a 99 percent-plus survival rate.
Biden has placed the blame for the resurgence of the virus squarely on the shoulders of those who aren’t vaccinated.
“The pandemic we have now is a pandemic of the unvaccinated,” Biden said during a visit Wednesday to a truck plant in Pennsylvania, where he urged the unvaccinated to “please, please, please, please” get a shot. He mingled, maskless, among a throng who also went without face coverings.
A day earlier, he mused that “if those other 100 million people got vaccinated, we’d be in a very different world.”
The administration on Wednesday was still reviewing details of the expected guidance, and significant questions about its implementation and scope remained. It was unclear whether the president would issue similar requirements for the military and how federal contractors would be affected. The administration is announcing the move now with the hope that it will give agencies enough time to craft their own guidelines and plans for implementation before workers return fully to the office.
The announcement is expected to come as part of broader remarks Thursday that Biden promised would outline “the next steps in our effort to get more Americans vaccinated.”
The individual said the conversation around the new vaccine guidance had been in the works for some time and was intended to provide an example for private companies to follow as they get ready for workers to return this fall.
But it’s just the latest policy shift from the administration during a week of government ostracization of vaccine skeptics — who wonder why so many who have received the shots still get the virus — masked as new coronavirus mitigation efforts.
On Monday, the Department of Veterans Affairs became the first federal agency to require vaccinations, for its health workers.
And on Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reversed its masking guidelines and said that all Americans living in areas with substantial or high coronavirus transmission rates should wear masks indoors, regardless of their vaccination status.
Adapted from reporting by Associated Press.