President Joe Biden has announced sweeping new pandemic requirements aimed at boosting vaccination rates for millions of federal workers and contractors as he lamented the “American tragedy” of rising-yet-preventable deaths among the unvaccinated.
Federal workers will be required to sign forms attesting they’ve been vaccinated against the coronavirus or else comply with new rules on mandatory masking, weekly testing, distancing and more. The strict new guidelines are aimed at increasing sluggish vaccination rates among the huge number of Americans who draw federal paychecks — and to set an example for private employers around the country.
“Right now, too many people are dying or watching someone they love die and say, ‘If I’d just got the vaccine,’” Biden said in a somber address Thursday from the East Room of the White House. “This is an American tragedy. People are dying who don’t have to die.”
However, pushback is certain to Biden’s action. It puts him squarely in the center of a fierce political debate surrounding the government’s ability to compel Americans to follow public health guidelines.