WASHINGTON — The Biden administration is considering requiring all federal employees to be vaccinated against the coronavirus or be forced to submit to regular testing, social distancing, mask requirements and restrictions on most travel, officials said Tuesday — a dramatic shift in approach by President Biden that reflects the government’s growing concern about the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant.
Mr. Biden said on Tuesday that a vaccine mandate for all federal workers is under consideration, but did not provide details. Administration officials said the idea being debated was similar to a plan announced by New York City, which would require any of the city’s 300,000 employees who refuse to be vaccinated to submit to weekly testing.
Officials said there was no consideration of simply firing employees who refuse to get vaccinated, but that the government could add additional burdens or restrictions on those who do not get the protections in an effort to convince more people to get the shot in the first place. They said there is evidence that making life inconvenient for those who refuse the vaccine works reasonably well to increase vaccination rates.
Around the country, mayors, business leaders, hospital administrators and college presidents are requiring Covid-19 vaccinations, even for those who have refused to voluntarily roll up their sleeves. So far, Mr. Biden has resisted. He has not yet required all federal workers to be vaccinated. He has not ordered members of the military to get shots. And he has not used his bully pulpit call for a broader use of vaccine mandates.
But the president’s stance may be shifting quickly.
Inside the West Wing, his top public health experts are furiously debating the right path forward, according to administration officials, as the Delta variant surges in places where there are high numbers of unvaccinated Americans, posing a special threat to children, older people, cancer patients and others with weakened immune systems.
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