Washington: The steps President Biden’s administration is adopting this week to re-recommend masks and require vaccines for federal workers amount to emergency actions designed to contain a new surge of Covid-19 that has quickly become the top issue confronting the country.
Case rates are rising in many parts of the country, throwing reopening plans for schools and workplaces into doubt, and threatening a fourth wave of the virus that could once again overwhelm hospitals.
On Monday, the White House said it would not lift long-running Covid-related travel restrictions that have barred much of the world from entering the US since 2020, citing concerns over the highly transmissible Delta variant, which now makes up 83% of new infections in the country.
And on Tuesday, the CDC recommended that some vaccinated people wear masks indoors and in public areas.
Biden on Tuesday explicitly laid blame for the current situation on unvaccinated people. As the virus rips through conservative communities in the US South, many Republicans have refused to push back on misinformation driving doubt in the vaccines’ safety and effectiveness. But, as the situation worsens, some including Mitt Romney and Mitch McConnell are starting to speak out against skeptics.
Biden was set to announce on Thursday that all federal employees and contractors will be required to have vaccinations against Covid-19, or submit to regular testing and mitigation measures. The announcement comes after the Department of Veterans Affairs became the first federal agency, California the first state and New York the first major city to announce vaccine requirements for their workers.