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WASHINGTON (AP) — The Biden administration is announcing new requirements for federal workers and some contractors who do not attest to being fully vaccinated, as well as new vaccine incentives.
President Joe Biden declared that any unvaccinated federal workers are subject to universal masking, getting tested weekly or twice weekly, physical distancing from employees and visitors, and restrictions on official travel.
The guidelines are aimed at boosting sluggish vaccine rates among the millions of Americans who draw federal paychecks and setting an example for employers around the country.
Rather than mandating that federal workers receive vaccines, the Biden administration’s plan would make life more difficult for those who are unvaccinated to encourage them to get the shot.
Biden is also asking states and localities to offer unvaccinated residents $100 to get their COVID-19 shots.
The cash reward for vaccination was one idea in Biden’s latest plan to boost lagging vaccination rates in many parts of the nation. Rolled out Thursday, the core of his new plan is a requirement for federal workers to disclose their vaccination status to their agencies.
Biden is pointing to anecdotal evidence that a $100 reward will get results. The White House says the Kroger grocery store chain tried it and saw vaccination rates jump to 75% from 50% among employees. New Mexico, Ohio and Colorado have also experimented with the idea.
Biden says states and localities can use money from his COVID relief law to pay for the incentive programs.
Biden is also telling the Pentagon to determine how and when the COVID-19 vaccine will be made mandatory for members of the U.S. military.
Until now, defense leaders have said that the vaccine will remain voluntary for troops around the world until the Food and Drug Administration gives final approval to the drug. The White House on Thursday said Biden will tell the Defense Department to look at when the COVID-19 shot will be added to the list of vaccines already required for military service members.
Biden announced that every federal government worker and onsite contractor prove they are vaccinated or wear masks, stay socially distant and submit to testing once or twice a week. Those not vaccinated also would be subject to travel restrictions. Of the more than 4 million federal employees, nearly half are members of the military. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has said at least 70% of the force has gotten at least one dose.