Measures require vaccinations or testing for federal workers and contractors
President Joe Biden announced Thursday that all federal workers and contractors will be required to self-attest their vaccination status or undergo weekly testing as part of a new set of measures to increase the vaccination rate across the nation.
Under the new guidelines, any of the nation’s 4 million federal workers who do not attest their fully vaccinated status will be required to wear masks, physical distance and comply with weekly COVID-19 testing once or twice per week.
“If you want to do business with the federal government, get your workers vaccinated,” President Biden said during a briefing Thursday at the White House.
The new guidelines for federal workers come as the latest effort from the president to slow an increasing wave of infections associated with the highly contagious Delta variant. During Thursday’s briefing, President Biden also announced a number of other measures his administration will take to increase the vaccination rate nationwide.
These additional measures include directing state and local governments to offer a $100 vaccine incentive to anyone who gets a shot from now on, as well as expanding paid sick leave for individuals who need time off to get themselves or their family members vaccinated.
Under the new measures, small and medium-sized businesses will now be reimbursed for offering sick leave to employees to get the vaccine, according to the White House.
The president also said Thursday he would also direct the Department of Defense to consider adding the COVID-19 vaccine to the list of vaccinations required for military members.
With these guidelines in place, the president said he is hopeful that the incentives and mandates will encourage a hesitant group of Americans to get their shot in the arm.
As of Thursday, about 164 million Americans were fully vaccinated.
“We are not fully out of the woods yet because what’s happening now is a pandemic of the unvaccinated,” President Biden said. “There are about 90 million Americans who are eligible to get the shot but haven’t gotten it yet.”
“We can do this,” President Biden later added. “We brought our economy back to life and kept it going, we know we can send our kids back to school, we know we can beat this virus. We can do this, we all just have to do our part.”
The president also encouraged school districts on Thursday to host at least one more pop-up vaccination clinic on campus to encourage eligible students to get their shots.
He added that all students should be back to in-person learning this fall.
This latest push to increase the vaccination rate comes just a few days after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its guidance to recommend that all people, regardless of vaccination status, begin masking indoors.
The president voiced support for the CDC’s decision this week, but reminded the public that vaccination is the best way to protect from disease.
“A mask is not a political statement. It’s about protecting yourself and protecting others,” President Biden said. “Masking is one defense against the spread of COVID-19 — make no mistake, vaccines are the best defense against you getting seriously ill from COVID-19.”
As federal officials and health experts continue to push for vaccination across the country, more than 100,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine were administered in California on Wednesday, according to Gov. Gavin Newsom. That latest total is the most the state has seen in a single day in the last three weeks.
Santa Barbara County, which is currently labeled as having “substantial” disease spread by the CDC, is also continuing the vaccination effort.
The county’s Public Health Department reported Thursday that 61.6% of eligible county residents 12 and older are fully vaccinated, and 69.8% of the population has received at least one dose. Of the entire county’s population, 52.1% are fully vaccinated.
The county’s case rate has been on a steady uptick in recent weeks due to the Delta variant. On Thursday, the county reported 102 new cases of COVID-19.
Officials reported 25 new cases in Santa Maria, 18 new cases in Santa Barbara and the unincorporated Mission Canyon and 17 new cases in Lompoc and the communities of Mission Hills and Vandenberg Village. Ten new cases were reported in the unincorporated Goleta Valley and Gaviota, nine were reported in Goleta, six were reported in Isla Vista, and four were reported in Orcutt.
One new infection was reported in the Santa Ynez Valley and the South Coast unincorporated area of Summerland, Montecito and the city of Carpinteria.
Eleven cases were pending on Thursday.