President Biden today plans to sign an executive order that’s said to require essentially all government employees, as well as onsite government contractors, to get vaccinated against COVID-19. This pivot is sort of a 180 from the White House’s previous position, announced in July, that federal employees could opt out if they agreed to subject themselves to regular testing and other potential mitigation measures. However, between the delta variant surge nationwide and the Food and Drug Administration’s full approval of the Pfizer vaccine for adults, White House officials have told media outlets that Biden is now embracing a more aggressive approach, eliminating the option to refuse the vaccine.
His mandate will reportedly apply to over 4 million employees in the executive branch, then also to federal contractors. This is a very large group that should include:
- the White House
- the vast web of federal agencies
- the entire military
- companies that get $680 billion worth of government contracts each year (including Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, blue-chip consulting firm Accenture, and the computer brand Dell)—though the finer points of executing this one remain unclear
Reportedly not affected by Biden’s mandate are employees of Congress and the federal courts.
All of this is likely to raise some questions, so Biden has a speech planned for 5 p.m. today. Officials told CNN that he also plans to use this moment to unveil a six-pronged government plan for a speedy and full recovery from the pandemic. Other than doubling down on calls for unvaccinated Americans to get their shot, he’ll apparently address the growing confusion over booster shots and announce a “major expansion” to free testing, a hurdle health officials have identified to containing the virus and getting life back to normal.