Biden Tells Federal Workers: Get Vaccinated or Submit to Testing

President Biden announced a directive requiring all federal workers to get vaccinated against COVID-19 or undergo regular testing and submit to other measures.

All federal employees will have to demonstrate their vaccination status, he said. Anyone not fully vaccinated will be required to mask “no matter where they work,” socially distance, be tested once or twice per week, “and generally, will not be allowed to travel for work,” said Biden.

The directive applies to roughly 4 million federal government workers and onsite contractors. In addition, the president is also calling on his administration to extend these standards to include all federal contractors.

“If you want to do business with the federal government. Get your workers vaccinated,” he said.

Additionally, Biden said he would be asking the Department of Defense to “look into” adding COVID-19 vaccines to the list of vaccinations required for members of the armed forces.

Lastly, the president said the federal government will now support medium and small businesses in giving staff paid time off, not only for employees to get vaccinated but for employees to help get their family members get vaccinated.

“That means employers can get reimbursed if they give parents time off with … paid leave to take their kids or their own parents to get vaccinated,” he said.

Currently in the U.S., 164 million Americans have been fully vaccinated, Biden said, including about 80% of seniors.

But “we’re not fully out of the woods yet,” he said. “There are about 90 million Americans who are eligible to get the shot but haven’t gotten it yet.”

As the more contagious Delta variant tightens its grip on the nation, the Biden administration and other states have taken steps to try to curb its spread.

On Monday, the Department of Veterans Affairs became the first federal agency to require vaccination of all healthcare staff at VA facilities. The department gave all Title 38 healthcare personnel 8 weeks to get immunized or potentially be removed from their posts. That same day, the Department of Justice stated that it is indeed legal to mandate COVID-19 vaccination even while the products are under emergency use authorization.

Both New York City and California have also mandated that government workers be vaccinated or face regular testing and mask requirements.

On Tuesday, the CDC updated its guidance around indoor masking. The agency now recommends that all teachers and all students, regardless of their vaccination status wear masks in schools. The CDC is also advising those living in COVID-19 hotspots — areas where there is substantial transmission of the virus — to wear masks indoors as well.

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, MD, explained that the change in the recommendation is rooted in new evidence that even vaccinated Americans, if they contract the Delta variant, can spread the virus to others. She cited the country’s waning vaccination rates as one reason for the agency’s change in course.

Biden reminded Americans what he learned in school, and from his parents, that “with freedom comes responsibility — your decision to be unvaccinated impacts someone else.”

“Unvaccinated people spread the virus, they get sick,” he continued. “If you’re unvaccinated, you put your doctor and nurses at risk. The same frontline workers who put their lives on the line over the past year and have gone through hell … So please, exercise responsible judgment and get vaccinated.”

Last Updated July 29, 2021

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    Shannon Firth has been reporting on health policy as MedPage Today’s Washington correspondent since 2014. She is also a member of the site’s Enterprise & Investigative Reporting team. Follow

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