July 29 (UPI) — President Joe Biden is expected Thursday to unveil a requirement that employees and contractors of the federal government must get vaccinated against COVID-19, or submit to regular coronavirus testing and mitigation requirements.
Biden will make the announcement during a speech in which he’s also set to announce a series of additional measures, which include incentives to get more Americans vaccinated as inoculation rates have stalled and cases have climbed amid the presence of the more contagious Delta variant.
CNBC, The Hill, CNN and The New York Times all reported details of Biden’s plan.
The president, who has tried to be particularly aggressive in mitigating COVID-19 in the United States since taking office in January, alluded earlier this week to implementing the mandate for federal workers.
“That is under consideration right now, but if you’re not vaccinated you’re not nearly as smart as I thought you were,” he said during a visit to the U.S. intelligence community.
White House principal deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters Wednesday that no decision had been finalized, but said the White House was considering a system requiring employees to get vaccinated or face strict safety protocols.
By Wednesday, less than 70% of U.S. adults had received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, which was still below a previous goal set by Biden — to reach 70% by July 4. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, just 49% of the total U.S. population has been fully vaccinated with shots available to Americans over 12.
Studies have shown recently that vaccine hesitancy is holding among certain groups of people in the United States.
The United States has been averaging slightly more than 40,000 new COVID-19 cases over the past seven days, up 46.7% from the previous 7-day average, according to the CDC.
Biden’s speech on Thursday comes after the Department of Veterans Affairs announced this week that it will mandate COVID-19 vaccines for healthcare personnel, becoming the first federal agency to issue such a requirement.
Biden’s plan to order vaccination or regular testing for federal workers is expected to be similar to a mandate imposed by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio this week, which requires the city’s roughly 340,000 municipal workers to be vaccinated by mid-September, or tested weekly.
The CDC this week took a step backward this week when it altered guidance on mask-wearing, urging all Americans regardless of vaccinated status to wear masks in indoor public spaces in high-risk areas of the United States.
The CDC cited the more contagious Delta variant as a primary factor in its move, as well as vaccine hesitancy in certain areas.
Additionally, following the new CDC guidance, the White House budget office issued a memo to all federal agencies saying employees must wear face coverings indoors, regardless of vaccination status.
Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris have both underscored recently that the substantial majority of Americans who are dying of the coronavirus disease are those who decided not to receive the vaccine.
“None of us like wearing masks. People need to get vaccinated,” Harris said during a meeting Tuesday. “It will save their life. This virus is no joke.
“The people who are in hospitals today with COVID-19, the vast majority of them have been unvaccinated. When you look at the people who are dying right now, almost none of them have been vaccinated.”
Earlier this week, a U.S. Capitol physician resurrected a mask mandate for lawmakers in the House due to the surge in cases — a move that House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy criticized as being entirely political and not based on Science.
When asked about McCarthy’s remarks, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was clear in her disdain.
“He’s such a moron,” she said, according to CNN.
Those who don’t wear a mask in areas where they’re required in the Capitol can be slapped with a $500 fine.