SAN JOSE, Calif. - The nation’s two million federal employees now face a simple choice: either get vaccinated or submit to routine testing.
"We’re seeing a spike in COVID cases. They’re going up, why? Because of this new variant called the delta variant," President Joe Biden said Tuesday as he addressed from the White House.
In an attempt to stem the spread, the president mandated that all federal employees must sign forms attesting they’ve been vaccinated against the coronavirus or else comply with new rules on mandatory masking, weekly testing, distancing, and more.
"We’re never going to see the light at the end of the tunnel here with this covid pandemic unless we substantially improve our vaccination rates," said Dr. Anthony Santella, a University of New Haven health administration policy expert.
He along with other experts and government officials said new COVID cases, hospitalizations, and deaths are mostly from the delta Variant. And overwhelmingly, among the unvaccinated.
While some areas of the country have high vaccination rates, others lag, leaving half the populous unprotected.
Biden’s move is seen by some as boosting vaccination rates.
"It’s a step in the right direction. And often, states and local jurisdictions follow suit," said Santella.
California and New York have already implemented similar requirements for state workers. Google and Facebook now require returning office employees to be vaccinated.
"Look, this is not about red states and blue states it’s literally about life and death," said Mr. Biden. Added Professor Donna Crane, a San Jose State University political scientist, "I think this is strictly a public health move. If anything, there might be a little bit of a legal spin-off to this. I imagine some of the unions representing federal employees in some sectors may take issue with some piece of this."
The Federal Law Enforcement Officers’ Association, which represents FBI agents and U.S. Marshalls released a statement that read in part, "Forcing people to undertake a medical procedure is not the American way and is a clear civil rights violation..."
The president counters freedom requires responsibility. And protecting the nation from another full-blown outbreak means getting as many people as possible inoculated.
"If we had high vaccination rates, we wouldn’t be in this spot right now," Biden said.
As an incentive to vaccination across the board, the president proposed $100 vouchers and paid-time-off so workers can get the vaccine. He’s also requiring Veterans Administration staffers to get vaccinated. The president wants the Department of Defense to figure out a way to do the same for members of the military.