Covid: Biden shifts onus onto the unvaccinated as he readies federal worker

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Instead of merely asking Americans to get vaccinated, the President on Thursday is set to take his first step toward requiring it. In afternoon remarks, Biden is planning to announce that all federal employees must attest to being vaccinated against Covid-19 or face strict protocols including regular testing, masking and other mitigation measures, according to a source with direct knowledge of the matter.

The directive, which has been under review by the administration for several days, will be delivered in sterner terms than Biden has used previously, one official said. It marks a sharp strategic shift for the White House as it urgently moves to address the spread of the highly transmissible Delta variant.

But the goal, according to aides, is to render being unvaccinated so burdensome that those who haven’t received shots will have little choice other than to get them. It’s an approach being tested by leaders in Europe, including France’s Emmanuel Macron, who required either proof of vaccination or a negative test at public venues. And some states, including New York, have also said government employees must either prove they’ve been vaccinated or be tested weekly.

As vaccination rates have fallen across the country, Biden has become increasingly frustrated and feels as if the nation has hit “a brick wall” when it comes to getting shots in arms, according to people familiar with his thinking. During Biden’s speech Thursday, one official said he also plans to directly address the millions who have procrastinated or outright refused to get vaccinated.

In private meetings with top aides, Biden has raised one question repeatedly: “What’s the problem?”

At earlier stages in the pandemic, Biden resisted steps that would require people to provide proof of vaccination. The White House flatly rejected the notion of “vaccine passports” in April. Attendees at a major July Fourth party were not expected to show their US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention vaccine cards. And as recently as Friday, the White House said it was the role of private-sector entities and local communities to mandate vaccines, not the federal government.

Biden’s aides still say they do not believe he has the power to require all Americans to get shots. But his oversight of the federal workforce, they believe, can be a powerful model to other employers considering their options on mandating vaccines. One of the principal motivators behind Biden’s vaccine requirement for federal workers is providing a model for private companies and local governments considering similar rules for their own employees, according to administration officials.

And a recently posted legal opinion from the Justice Department finding that federal law doesn’t prohibit public agencies and private businesses from requiring Covid-19 vaccines could give cover for businesses to require their employees to be inoculated.

Officials wanted to announce the requirement before agencies and private businesses return…



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