WASHINGTON, July 30 — U.S. President Joe Biden announced Thursday that all workers hired by the U.S. federal government are required either to prove that they have been vaccinated against COVID-19 or to submit to a series of vigorous safety protocols.
Unvaccinated people dying from COVID-19 is “an American tragedy,” Biden said during a speech at the White House in an effort to convince those still reluctant to get vaccinated to receive their doses.
“People are dying and will die who don’t have to die. If you’re out there unvaccinated, you don’t have to die,” the president said, pointing particularly to those who are not yet vaccinated and are currently hospitalized due to contracting the virus.
Prior to Biden making the announcement, the White House released a factsheet detailing the measures, saying that “every federal government employee and the onsite contractor will be asked to attest to their vaccination status.”
Employees who have not been vaccinated, according to the factsheet, “will be required to wear a mask on the job no matter their geographic location, physically distance from all other employees and visitors, comply with a weekly or twice-weekly screening testing requirement, and be subject to restrictions on official travel.”
The executive branch of the federal government now has over 4 million employees, including over 2 million in the federal civilian workforce. Biden also directed the Defense Department to look into adding the COVID-19 shot to its list of required vaccinations for members of the military.
Also included in the efforts announced Thursday was expanded paid leave for employees who take time off to get themselves and their family members vaccinated. Biden said small- and medium-sized businesses will receive reimbursements if they offer employees time off to get family members vaccinated.
Biden also called on states, territories, and local governments to offer 100 U.S. dollars to every unvaccinated American who wants to get their shots. The money, according to a Treasury Department statement, will be derived from the 350-billion-dollar pandemic-relief fund for state and local governments that was part of the American Rescue Plan passed by Congress earlier this year.
To let more kids aged 12 and older get vaccinated, the president called on school districts nationwide to host at least one pop-up vaccination clinic over the coming weeks.
The Veterans Affairs Department ordered compulsory vaccination for its healthcare staff on Monday, saying those who refused to be inoculated will possibly be removed from their jobs.
The Biden administration had missed its goal of getting 70 percent of American adults partially vaccinated by July 4, with the rate standing at 69.4 percent as of Thursday, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Fully vaccinated people now account for 49.4 percent of the total population, as vaccination hesitancy in some places of the nation continues to hamper mass immunization efforts.
By issuing the federal vaccine mandate, the Biden administration has put itself in the center of a debate over how far the government can go in compelling Americans to follow public health guidance.
The Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association (FLEOA), which represents 30,000 federal law enforcement officers across agencies, issued a statement ahead of Biden’s speech, stating that a vaccine mandate amounts to a civil rights violation.
FLEOA fully supported individuals who voluntarily choose to be vaccinated, and encouraged its members to be vaccinated, said Larry Cosme the president of the association.
” However, forcing people to undertake a medical procedure is not the American way and is a clear civil rights violation no matter how proponents may seek to justify it,” Cosme said in a statement.
Biden in his speech urged state and local governments and private employers to follow a similar vaccination requirement for their workplace, noting the Justice Department has “made it clear” that it is legal for governments and private-sector entities to issue vaccine mandates.