Biden considering vaccine mandate for all federal workers
U.S. President Joe Biden on Tuesday (July 27) said his administration is considering a mandate that requires all federal workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19, escalating the push for vaccination amid the rampant spread of the Delta variant and still-high vaccine hesitancy rates in some parts of the country.
"That's under consideration right now," Biden told a reporter who asked whether the administration was weighing such a requirement.
"If you're not vaccinated, you're not nearly as smart as I thought you were," he said.
Biden's remarks come against the backdrop of waning vaccination rates in the country despite the wide availability of the shots and as the spread of the more transmissible Delta variant causes a worrisome uptick in caseloads.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Monday that the administration had not yet determined whether it would be legal for Biden to require federal employees to be vaccinated.
The U.S. federal government is the country's largest employer. There are some 4 million employees in total in the executive branch, including civilian workers, men and women in uniform, as well as Postal Service personnel, according to government estimates updated in June. It is not yet clear whether the federal vaccine mandate being discussed will apply to members of the military.
The Department of Veterans Affairs on Monday announced a mandatory vaccination requirement for its healthcare workers, making it the first federal agency to impose such an order.
Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its mask guidance on Tuesday, now asking fully vaccinated people and kids to wear masks indoors in places with high COVID-19 transmission rates.
In a statement, Biden urged Americans to follow the CDC's new guidance, calling the change "another step on our journey to defeating this virus."
"I hope all Americans who live in the areas covered by the CDC guidance will follow it; I certainly will when I travel to these areas," read the statement.
The White House has told its staff to start wearing masks again, a White House official said on Tuesday.