Biden to Require Federal Workers to Be Vaccinated or Take Regular Tests


WASHINGTON — President Biden will formally announce on Thursday that all civilian federal employees must be vaccinated against the coronavirus or be forced to submit to regular testing, social distancing, mask requirements and restrictions on most travel, two people familiar with the president’s plans said on Wednesday.

White House officials said the administration was still reviewing details of the policy, which the president is expected to announce in a speech from the White House. In a statement on Tuesday, Mr. Biden said his remarks would reveal “the next steps in our effort to get more Americans vaccinated.”

The president’s move is expected to be similar to an announcement on Wednesday by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York, who said tens of thousands of state employees would be required to show proof of vaccination or submit to weekly testing. Mr. Cuomo also said that “patient facing” health care workers at state-run hospitals would be required to be vaccinated as a condition of their employment.

Other governments around the country are beginning to put in place similar arrangements as well, as the highly contagious Delta variant has caused cases to balloon in recent weeks. New York City announced this week that it would require all 300,000 city employees to be vaccinated or submit to weekly testing. California also unveiled a plan to require vaccinations for state employees.

The plan, she told reporters, is aimed at “confirming vaccination status or abiding by stringent Covid-19 protocols, like mandatory mask wearing, even in communities not with high or subsequent substantial spread, and regular testing.”

White House officials left open the possibility that some parts of the federal government might follow the lead of the Veterans Affairs Department and go further. That could include requiring employees who are in critical positions or deal directly with vulnerable populations to be vaccinated if they want to keep their job.

“We’ve also said requirements for vaccination may be under consideration for certain entities within the government,” Ms. Jean-Pierre said.

Mr. Biden’s decision to embrace stricter vaccine rules for federal workers follows days of deliberations and reflects the growing concern among top federal health officials about the Delta variant.

Those concerns prompted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to revise its recommendations for mask wearing this week, telling Americans that they should wear face coverings indoors in areas of the country where the spread of the virus is significant.

On Wednesday, officials at the Defense Department issued a statement saying that all military employees in those parts of the country should wear masks in all department facilities. That included the Pentagon just outside Washington, which is set to begin requiring people inside the building to wear a mask.

“Today’s announcement applies to all service members, federal personnel, contractors and visitors when indoors at all properties owned by the department in those areas, in accordance with updated C.D.C. guidelines,” said Jamal Brown, a deputy Pentagon press secretary.

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