US President Joe Biden announced a new measure on Thursday requiring all federal workers and on-site contractors to verify that they received the COVID-19 vaccine. Unvaccinated federal employees will face mandatory masking, weekly testing, and travel restrictions.
The White House’s new policy reflects concern over the Delta variant, which is increasing the rate of infection and the number of hospitalizations throughout the nation. Simultaneously, vaccination rates have stalled. Plenty of free vaccines are available in the United States. However, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 164.8 million Americans are fully vaccinated out of the total population of 330 million.
The federal government is the largest employer in the nation. The White House’s new measure is aimed at increasing the vaccination rate of the millions of federal workers and contractors. Private businesses and other institutions may follow the example this requirement is setting.
“Right now, too many people are dying or watching someone they love die and say, ‘If I’d just got the vaccine.’ This is an American tragedy. People are dying who don’t have to die,” President Biden said in an address. “Get vaccinated for yourself, the people you love, for your country.”
Several federal unions have criticized the new measure. The Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association asserted that requiring vaccinations infringes on civil rights. The American Postal Workers Union also opposes the requirement.
Regarding children and schools, President Biden explained that schools should be open full-time in the fall. Biden pushed for school districts to hold at least one “pop-up vaccination clinic” in the coming weeks to vaccinate children who are at least 12 years old. The White House offered to reimburse small and medium-sized businesses who give workers paid time off to vaccinate their children and other family members.