President Joe Biden announced on Thursday that all federal employees and contractors are now required to show either a proof of COVID vaccination or submit to mask mandates, social distancing guidelines, and regular COVID testing as part of the government's fight to alleviate yet another surge of coronavirus cases caused by the more infectious delta variant.
The Democratic leader also outlined a new set of plans to encourage more people to get vaccinated for COVID, including incentives and cash prizes.
"Right now, too many people are dying or watching someone they love die and say if 'I'd just got the vaccine,'" President Biden said from an address at the White House, as reported by the Epoch Times. "This is an American tragedy. People are dying who don't have to die."
"This is not about red states and blue states. It's literally about life and death," the 78 year old Democratic leader said. "With freedom comes responsibility. Your decision to be unvaccinated impacts someone else."
The White House also released a fact sheet that outlined several actions for combating the more contagious delta variant that reportedly caused up to 83% of new U.S. COVID cases, CNN said on July 20. Andy Slavitt, who formerly led the Biden administration's COVID Response Team, said that the delta variant is "twice as infectious."
The White House's fact sheet mandates all federal employees and federal contractors to disclose their vaccination status and those who are not fully vaccinated will be required to adhere to mask mandates, physical distancing, "weekly or twice weekly screening testing requirement" and will be subjected to "restrictions on official travel."
White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters that the federal government, which employs more than 4 million Americans and more than 2 million in the federal civilian workforce, is "a large employer, the largest in this country, who cares about individuals who keep the government running, we have an obligation to be good stewards of the work force and ensure their health and their safety."
Secondly, the Biden administration is also ordering the Department of Defense to develop a strategy on "how and when they will add COVID-19 vaccination to the list of required vaccinations for members of the military." The government is also expanding paid leave to small- and medium-sized businesses, who will be "reimbursed for offering their employees paid leave to get their family members, including their kids, vaccinated."
Lastly, the Biden administration is calling on state and local governments to incentivize vaccination, such as giving away a $100 cash prize. The government is looking at a case from the grocery store Kroger, which offered $100 to their employees to get vaccinated. The result was an increase in vaccination rates from 50% to 75%.
"The vaccines are safe, highly effective. There's nothing political about them," President Biden said, highlighting how Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky supported the government's COVID vaccine campaign and saying that the state is "in pretty good shape," CNBC reported.
President Biden concluded that it is an "American blessing" to have a vaccine available for its citizens, given that the government purchased enough COVID vaccines for three times the adult population of the U.S., the Washington Post reported in March. Today, about 60% of Americans who are eligible to get the jab has had at least one dose of the vaccine.