In a stunning development, President Joe Biden’s administration has announced it won’t require federal employees to be vaccinated for COVID-19.
According to Fox News, the so-called Safer Federal Workforce task force has “strongly” encouraged individuals who work in-person in federal buildings to receive vaccinations against the coronavirus, but said in its latest guidance that inoculations shouldn’t a “pre-condition” for being hired.
“At present, COVID-19 vaccination should generally not be a pre-condition for employees or contractors at executive departments and agencies to work in-person in Federal buildings, on Federal lands, and in other settings as required by their job duties,” the task force said, according to Fox.
The task force also said federal “[e]mployees should receive paid time off to be vaccinated and to deal with any side effects.”
According to The Washington Post, the newly issued guidance also says federal “agencies should not require federal employees or contractors to disclose” their vaccination status.
“Responding to agency inquiries should be voluntary,” they said.
For those who aren’t vaccinated, the task force recommends agencies “implement CDC-recommended mitigation measures, including masking and physical distancing.”
The new guidance comes roughly a week after the U.S. surpassed 600,000 deaths from the COVID-19 pandemic, but as case numbers continue to fall, NBC News reports. The U.S. has seen more than 30 million cases of the coronavirus since the pandemic first hit its shores last spring.
Meanwhile, about 140 million Americans have been fully vaccinated, according to the last figures from the CDC.
At that pace, it seems the president won’t reach his goal of having 70% of the adult population in America vaccinated by the Fourth of July.
But perhaps most surprising in all of this is the fact that the Biden administration seems to be taking such a hands-off approach to this issue of vaccines among federal employees. It’s a stark contrast from his previous strategy of pushing vaccines, masks, lockdowns, and other measures intended to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
In fact, signing an executive order requiring individuals to wear face coverings in federal buildings was among Biden’s first actions as president. The question now is: What’s changed? And will the White House make another sudden shift of course again in the future? Only time will tell.