Biden administration official Jeff Zients called for additional vaccine mandates for employees returning to work in person, citing the rise in COVID-19 cases from the highly infectious delta variant.
“In addition to incentives [to get vaccinated], it's time to impose some requirements based on the realities of different risks unvaccinated individuals pose versus those who have been vaccinated,” Zients said on Monday.
Zients added the Department of Defense is considering a vaccine mandate for its workforce “at the president's direction.”
Last week, the Department of Veterans Affairs publicly announced a vaccine mandate for all healthcare staff — a move that, until then, the Biden administration had been reluctant to take. Soon after, President Joe Biden announced all federal workers and contractors must disclose vaccination status or submit themselves to regular testing.
The Biden administration has assumed a more stern tone regarding lagged vaccination rates in recent weeks as new cases due to the delta variant swelled, primarily in pockets of unvaccinated people across the southeast and parts of the Midwest. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky said Monday that cases jumped 44% from last week to an average of about 79,000 new cases.
The White House maintains a nationwide vaccine mandate is not in the works but notes private employers should do everything they can to get employees vaccinated, including mandates.
“We will be looking across the federal government, in other areas that could require these types of mandates,” Zients said. “At the same time, I think it's really encouraging that we're seeing the private sector … announcing vaccine requirements … I think you're going to see a continued increase in vaccination requirements, as people bring employees back to work.”
The vaccine requirements set in place across the private sector, as well as cash incentives to get the shots, have already started to pay off, Zients said. States with some of the lowest vaccination rates, such as Louisiana and Mississippi, have recorded significant jumps in the number of people receiving the shots. Louisiana has seen a 302% increase in the average number of newly vaccinated individuals per day, while Mississippi has recorded an increase of 250%.
Companies such as Google, Walmart, and Disney have made COVID-19 vaccines mandatory for employees, and some states are following suit. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has made the shots compulsory for all healthcare workers at state-owned hospitals and public transit workers.
The United States hit Biden’s July 4 goal of getting at least one shot to 70% of adults on Monday, nearly a month behind schedule. Vaccination rates in the U.S. have begun a modest uptick over the past week, according to a Bloomberg tracker, but those rates vary state by state. Massachusetts has given at least one dose to about 72% of the population, compared to slightly less than 40% in Mississippi.
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Original Author: Cassidy Morrison
Original Location: Biden adviser calls for companies to impose COVID-19 vaccine mandates