President Joe Biden said Tuesday his administration is weighing whether to require federal employees to be vaccinated for the coronavirus as the highly contagious delta variant spreads throughout the U.S.
“That’s under consideration right now,” Biden told reporters when asked if he would impose a vaccine mandate for all government workers.
The Biden administration had previously discouraged federal agencies from requiring vaccination for on-site work.
But on Monday, the Department of Veterans Affairs announced it would order its health-care workers to get inoculated, making it the first federal agency to impose such a mandate.
Veteran Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough described the new measure as “the best way to keep Veterans safe.”
The White House has touted its nationwide campaign to vaccinate the nation out of the coronavirus pandemic. But the administration missed its goal of getting 70% of U.S. adults to receive at least one vaccine dose by July 4, and vaccination rates have slowed significantly from prior months.
With the delta variant on the rise worldwide, health officials growing concerned about so-called breakthrough infections among people who are fully vaccinated.
Officials have noted, however, that the symptoms felt from those infections tend be milder, and the vast majority of people hospitalized or killed by Covid are unvaccinated.
But with another surge in cases expected in the fall, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention earlier Tuesday reversed its latest guidance on wearing masks indoors. The CDC is now asking fully vaccinated people and kids begin wearing masks indoors again in places with high Covid transmission rates, as well as in schools.
After noting that cases and deaths are down “dramatically,” Biden in a statement later Tuesday urged Americans to follow the CDC’s new guidance, calling the change “another step on our journey to defeating this virus.”
“I hope all Americans who live in the areas covered by the CDC guidance will follow it; I certainly will when I travel to these areas,” Biden’s statement said.
Boosting vaccinations and wearing masks when necessary “will enable us to avoid the kind of lockdowns, shutdowns, school closures, and disruptions we faced in 2020,” the statement said.
“We are not going back to that,” the president’s statement said.
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