President Joe Biden plans to toughen health requirements for federal employees (central government workers) amid growing covid outbreaks due to the delta variant. The Democrat plans to sign an executive order this Thursday afternoon that requires public workers and contractors who do business with the Government to be vaccinated against the coronavirus, as confirmed by the White House. It has not transpired whether the mandate provides exceptions for people who do not want to inoculate for religious or medical reasons. It is the first large Western economy that imposes the vaccination against the covid to all public workers of its central Administration.
In early summer, Biden ruled that federal employees who weren’t vaccinated should undergo periodic COVID-19 testing, a cumbersome process, before starting the workday. Now that cases are skyrocketing and the economy slowed down sharply due to the scourge of the delta variant, the US president has gone one step further: there is no longer the alternative of undergoing tests, but they must be vaccinated. They will have 75 deadlines to do so and, if they refuse, they will enter into a process of “progressive disciplinary actions,” according to Jen Psaki, a spokeswoman for the White House. The executive order will affect employees of the executive branch, including the White House and all federal agencies. In total, 2.1 million civilian workers.
The sharp slowdown in employment in the US raises concerns about the impact of the delta variant on the recovery
The Department of Veterans Affairs, the Department of Health and Human Services and the National Institute of Health have already made the vaccine mandatory for their employees. In the last week of August, when more than 800,000 US soldiers were not inoculated, the Pentagon added the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine against covid to the list of essential vaccines to serve in the Army. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin ordered all armed forces to “impose ambitious schedules” for full troop vaccinations.
If the military, contractors and federal employees affected by Biden’s executive order are added, more than four million workers will be required to receive the covid vaccine. The news has not sat well with the union representatives. “In short, workers deserve to have a voice in their working conditions,” said Everett Kelley, president of the largest federal union federation of workers in the country (AFGE, for its acronym in English) in a statement Thursday. “We look forward to negotiating this change before implementation, and we urge all who can get vaccinated to do so as soon as possible,” he added.
The Democratic Administration has designed a six-step roadmap to stop the spread of the delta variant, whose viral load is up to 1,200 times higher than previous mutations. One of the pillars is to increase virus testing in schools to keep them open safely now that the new school year has started. The other five goals, according to a White House source cited by CNN, are: vaccinate the unvaccinated; further protect those already inoculated by booster injections; protect economic recovery, and improve care for people with Covid-19. The president is expected to deliver a speech at 5:00 p.m. (Washington time) in which he elaborates on each of these points and puts pressure on private companies, federal agencies, and local governments to enact more stringent vaccination policies and sanitary measures.
In recent weeks, new cases have soared to an average of 140,000 a day, a figure not seen since the beginning of the year, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC, for its acronym in English). ). The average number of deaths from coronavirus in the last seven days is 1,524, compared with 509 a month ago. In this adverse scenario, the European Union removed the US from the list of safe countries. Most of the infections and deaths are occurring among people who are not vaccinated or who have not yet completed the regimen. More than 208 million Americans have received at least one dose and 177 million are fully vaccinated, just over half of the eligible population.
The increase in cases has forced the reuse of masks in most of the country, except in conservative fiefdoms, and has delayed plans to return to the office of many companies. In addition, the labor market has also been affected by the outbreaks. In August, only 235,000 jobs were created, a much lower advance than the records of June and July, when the figures were close to one million new jobs. An ABC News poll and The Washington Post conducted in late August and early September revealed that 52% of Americans approve of Biden’s management of the pandemic, a 10-point drop since late June.
The White House hopes the executive order will serve as an example for private companies and apply the same demands to their employees. Since the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gave full approval to the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, more and more companies are demanding inoculation from their employees, although the debate over the obligation is not resolved. In mid-August Biden announced a plan to offer a third dose beginning September 20 to those vaccinated with Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna.