Biden Will Require Vaccines For Federal Workers As Part Of A New COVID Strategy
President Biden is set to deliver remarks Thursday on what the White House calls a new six-pronged strategy to contain the delta variant of the coronavirus as cases continue to surge across the country.
As part of the strategy, Biden will announce that federal workers and contractors will be required to be vaccinated for COVID-19, eliminating an option for unvaccinated workers to be regularly tested instead, a source familiar with the decision tells NPR.
The source adds that Biden is set to speak about efforts to combat the pandemic in six broad areas, including increased testing, vaccinating the unvaccinated and further protections for those who are vaccinated.
Biden will also address keeping schools safely open and protecting the U.S. economy, as well as improving care for those with COVID-19.
The speech comes as the United States has already recorded more than 40 million confirmed cases of the virus, with some 650,000 American lives lost as a result, according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University.
The new strategy will build upon previously announced guidance and mandates, White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Wednesday.
"There will be new components ... Some of that will be related to access to testing, some will be related to mandates, some will be related to how we ensure kids are protected in schools," Psaki said, describing the nation as having been "at war" with the virus.
COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths have spiked recently, due in large part to the delta variant, which experts say appears to be twice as transmissible as the highly contagious original strain.
The vast majority of hospitalizations and deaths in the current surge are among the unvaccinated. About a quarter of U.S. adults have not gotten a vaccine dose, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Biden has overseen ramped-up efforts to combat the virus through vaccinations and mask usage, but vaccine hesitancy — particularly among white Republicans — and the politicization of masks have hindered the nation in the fight to stamp out the virus.
And as children and teenagers return to school and the weather begins to cool, experts have warned that the country is likely to continue to see virus surges if more drastic steps are not taken. [Copyright 2021 NPR]