President Biden announced today that federal workers and contractors must get vaccinated with no option — as was allowed to this point — to show regular negative tests as part of new measures to battle the COVID-19 pandemic.
Biden also announced that the Labor Department “is developing an emergency rule to require all employers with 100 or more employees that together employ over 80 million workers to ensure their workforces are fully vaccinated or show a negative test at least once a week.”
“The vast majority of Americans are doing the right thing,” Biden said. “Nearly three-quarters of the eligible have gotten at least one shot, but one-quarter has not gotten any. That’s nearly 80 million Americans not vaccinated and, a country as large as ours, that’s 25 percent minority. That 25 percent can cause a lot of damage, and they are.”
The executive order requiring COVID-19 vaccinations for federal workers states that the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force will issue guidance to agencies within a week on a program to implement the vaccine mandate.
The executive order to ensure COVID-19 safety protocols for federal contractors says there will be a clause in contracts to “specify that the contractor or subcontractor shall, for the duration of the contract, comply with all guidance for contractor or subcontractor workplace locations published by the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force.” This will apply to “any workplace locations” where contract work is being performed.
By Sept. 24, the task force is supposed to provide “explanations of protocols required of contractors and subcontractors to comply with workplace safety guidance” along with any exceptions. By Oct. 8, 2021, the Federal Acquisition Regulatory Council will “take initial steps to implement appropriate policy direction to acquisition offices for use of the clause by recommending that agencies exercise their authority under subpart 1.4 of the Federal Acquisition Regulation.” Agencies “shall take steps, to the extent permitted by law, to exercise any applicable authority to ensure that contracts and contract-like instruments … that are not subject to the Federal Acquisition Regulation and that are entered into on or after October 15, 2021, consistent with the effective date of such agency action, include the clause.”
“If you want to work with the federal government and do business with us, get vaccinated,” Biden said. “If you want to do business with the federal government, vaccinate your workforce.”
The order does not apply to grants, contracts with Indian tribes, “contracts or subcontracts whose value is equal to or less than the simplified acquisition threshold,” employees who perform work outside the United States, or “subcontracts solely for the provision of products.”
“The bottom line: we’re going to protect vaccinated workers from unvaccinated coworkers,” Biden said. “We’re going to reduce the spread of COVID-19 by increasing the share of the workforce that is vaccinated in businesses all across America.”
Biden’s plan will also use federal authority to require vaccinations of healthcare workers at facilities that treat patients on Medicare and Medicaid. Teachers in the federal Head Start program will also be required to get COVID-19 vaccinations. He also announced expanded free COVID testing and lower-cost access to rapid testing kits, doubling of fines for air travelers who refuse to wear a mask, and expansion of the COVID-19 Economic Injury Disaster Loan program that allows impacted small businesses to borrow money with no interest for two years.