Biden orders tough new vaccination rules for federal workers
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden has announced sweeping new pandemic requirements aimed at boosting vaccination rates for millions of federal workers and contractors as he lamented the “American tragedy” of rising-yet-preventable deaths among the unvaccinated.
Federal workers will be required to sign forms attesting they’ve been vaccinated against the coronavirus or else comply with new rules on mandatory masking, weekly testing, distancing and more. The strict new guidelines are aimed at increasing sluggish vaccination rates among the huge number of Americans who draw federal paychecks — and to set an example for private employers around the country.
“Right now, too many people are dying or watching someone they love die and say, ‘If I’d just got the vaccine,’" Biden said in a somber address Thursday from the East Room of the White House. "This is an American tragedy. People are dying who don’t have to die.”
However, pushback is certain to Biden's action. It puts him squarely in the center of a fierce political debate surrounding the government’s ability to compel Americans to follow public health guidelines.
The federal government directly employs about 4 million people, but Biden’s action could affect many more when federal contractors are factored in. New York University professor of public service Paul Light estimates there are nearly 7 million more employees who could potentially be included, combining those who work for companies that contract with the government and those working under federal grants.
Biden, seemingly fed up with persistent vaccine resistance among many Americans, delivered a sharp rebuke to those who have yet to get shots, saying “they get sick and fill up our hospitals,” taking beds away from others who need them.
“If in fact you are...