The president of United States, Joe Biden, announced Thursday that he will force all workers in his government to show that they are vaccinated if they do not want to be tested regularly. And he did not rule out that he may impose a nationwide vaccination mandate in the future.
Biden’s announcement, which also asked the Pentagon to force all the country’s military to be vaccinated, coincides with a worrying increase in covid-19 cases linked to the advance of the delta variant in the United States, which is forcing a reversal with some reopening measures.
“We are going to ask all federal government employees to prove their immunization status,” Biden said during a speech at the White House.
Those who do not provide such proof will need to wear a mask to work and undergo weekly covid-19 test or even twice a week; in addition to maintaining physical distances and being prohibited, in general, from participating in official trips, the president explained.
The measure will apply to more than 4 million federal workers in the United States and the rest of the world, and similar standards will be implemented for all Administration contractors, according to the White House.
“If you want to do business with the federal government, vaccinate your workers,” Biden stressed.
The announcement is an attempt by Biden to make the most of his authority when it comes to boost the vaccination campaign in the United States, which has slowed down significantly in the last two months, with only 49% of the population inoculated with the full scheme.
As president, Biden can unilaterally impose a mandate on government workers, but until now, the White House had ensured that it did not legally have the power to do the same to force all Americans to get vaccinated.
Obligation for the whole country?
However, Biden himself contradicted his advisers on Thursday and left the door open to the possibility of finding a way to impose that mandate at the national level.
“The question is whether the federal government can order it to the whole country. I still don’t know,” said the president in response to a question from a journalist.
For now, the president indicated that states, localities and companies do have the power, according to the Justice Department, to impose vaccination mandates in their jurisdictions, and said he “would like” to see that happen more and more.
Although the idea of forcing vaccination is very controversial In a country like the United States, where individual freedom is highly valued, more and more companies are considering the idea.
Vaccination and return to the office
This week, companies like Google, Facebook and Lyft demanded that all workers who return to their offices be vaccinated, and the White House is confident that the mandate for federal employees announced by Biden will inspire more companies to follow that example.
It’s unclear how many U.S. government workers are already vaccinated, but Biden’s announcement drew criticism from some sectors of the federal staff, including the Postal Service Employees Union and an association of law enforcement and security officers.
Biden insisted, however, on the need to take measures like this, given the expansion of the delta variant, which already represents at least 83% of sequenced cases in the US and generated a notable increase in infections and hospitalizations. in the last weeks.
“This is an American tragedy. People are dying who would not have to die, and they will continue to die,” the president lamented.
Biden also asked the Pentagon to examine “how and when they will add the covid-19 vaccine to the list of those required” for members of the US Armed Forces, the White House explained in a statement.
More than 70% of the US military are already fully vaccinatedAccording to Pentagon data, a proportion much higher than the 49% of the general population of the United States that has received the complete scheme.
One hundred dollars to get vaccinated
In addition, Biden proposed that states, territories, and localities offer a reward of 100 dollars to those who are vaccinated, taking advantage of the funds contained in the rescue package approved by the government.
An initiative that, for example, the city of New York already adopted this Wednesday, which will give the 100 dollars in cash to any resident who goes to a municipal center to get the first dose of the vaccine.
“If the incentives help us to defeat this virus, I think we should use them,” said the president, ensuring that the kind of programs that states and companies have launched “are working.”
The measures were announced two days after the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) changed its guidelines and recommended that those who are vaccinated to wear masks again indoors and in public spaces in most of the country.
The change was due to the appearance of new “worrying” studies, which indicate that “in exceptional cases, some of the people vaccinated and infected with the delta variant can be contagious,” explained the CDC.