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Biden announced federal workers must be vaccinated or face regular tests.

Biden announced federal workers must be vaccinated or face regular tests.
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Biden announced federal workers must be vaccinated or face regular tests.

Biden announced federal workers must be vaccinated or face regular tests.

President Biden announced Thursday that all civilian federal employees must be vaccinated against the coronavirus or be required to undergo regular testing, social distancing, mask requirements and restrictions on most travel.

The federal government employs more than 4 million Americans, all of whom will need to certify that they are fully immunized in order to avoid wearing a mask at work, regardless of where in the country they work, and to submit to screening tests once or twice a year. the week.

President also asked the Defense Ministry to study how and when to add the coronavirus vaccine to the list of mandatory vaccinations for all members of the military. The announcement marked the first time he has suggested that a warrant might come for active-duty members of the military before one of the three federally authorized vaccines receives full approval from the Food and Drug Administration.

Mr Biden’s announcement of new terms in a pleading speech in the East Room was part of an attempt to reset expectations about the health scourge he believed he had under control just a few weeks ago. But now the Delta variant is tearing up unvaccinated communities, threatening to reverse progress in stopping the spread of the coronavirus made by the Biden administration in its first six months. Recent research has shown that fully vaccinated people are protected from the worst consequences of Covid-19, including those involving the Delta variant. And cases, hospitalizations and deaths are still only a fraction of their devastating winter peaks.

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“Cases will increase further before they start to come down,” Biden said Thursday, tempering expectations for what is to come. “There is a challenge as you knew there could be. “

For vaccinated Americans worried about breakthrough cases, Mr Biden reiterated that the pandemic was among the unvaccinated and booster shots were not needed. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been tracking groundbreaking infections that lead to hospitalizations and deaths, and the director said this week the agency was investigating cluster epidemics.

“For now, my medical advisers say the answer is no,” he said of the booster shots. “No American needs a booster now. But if science tells us there is a need for boosters, that’s something we’ll do.

In response, the administration is stepping up efforts to convince unvaccinated Americans to get vaccinated. Mr Biden on Thursday called on states, territories and local governments to pay unvaccinated Americans $ 100 to get vaccinated. And the administration announced Thursday that small and medium-sized businesses will now be reimbursed for offering their employees paid time off to immunize family members, including their children.

“It will not cost you, the employer, anything,” he said.

Some experts, especially at the start of the vaccination campaign, have expressed concern over paying people to get vaccinated, fearing that this could be seen as out of step with the message that vaccines bring benefits. huge benefits in themselves.

Mr Biden also called on school districts across the country to hold at least one pop-up vaccination clinic in the coming weeks, with the goal of increasing vaccination rates in children 12 and older.

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The president’s decision was similar to an announcement made Wednesday by New York City Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, who said tens of thousands of state employees would be required to show proof of vaccination or submit to weekly tests. Cuomo also said health workers “in front of patients” in public hospitals should be vaccinated as a condition of their employment.

Other governments across the country are also starting to put similar arrangements in place, as the highly contagious Delta variant has swelled the number of cases in recent weeks. New York City announced this week that it will require all 300,000 city workers to be vaccinated or tested weekly. California also unveiled a plan to require vaccinations for state employees.

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services will require all workers and volunteers at state-run facilities to be fully immunized or receive an approved medical or religious exemption by September 30, according to a statement sent to the New York Times Wednesday. Officials had not responded to questions about whether those exempted would be required to undergo testing.

And the Department of Veterans Affairs will require 115,000 of its frontline health workers to be vaccinated against the coronavirus over the next two months. But public health officials hope the prospect of additional burdens for the unvaccinated will help persuade more people to get vaccinated.

People familiar with Mr Biden’s announcement said it was part of a long-standing discussion of how to get most federal workers back to the office after nearly a year and a half in which hundreds of thousands of them have worked from home due to the pandemic.

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A team has been working on this plan for months, trying to balance employee concerns with the need to keep government running. One concern officials faced was how to demand vaccinations without potentially prompting critical employees to resign, thus undermining the government’s mission.

But the president’s announcement comes as the administration is under pressure to increase the country’s vaccination rate. About half of all Americans have been fully immunized, but the rate of people getting immunized has dropped significantly since early spring.

On Tuesday, the CDC revised its mask guidelines, advising that even those vaccinated should resume wearing masks in indoor public spaces in areas of the country where the virus is on the rise. Some states and municipalities quickly updated their own mask rules, while others expressed outrage. Mayor Muriel Bowser of Washington, DC, said Thursday that an indoor mask mandate would be re-imposed on Saturday to comply with new federal guidelines.

Rebecca Robbins and Dan Levin contributed reporting.

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