Updated Jul 29, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Military members will be included in Biden's new COVID guidance

Joe Biden. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Members of the military will be required to get vaccinations or face regular testing, social distancing, mask mandates and restrictions on travel for work, the the Pentagon said on Thursday evening.

Why it matters: The policy was announced for federal workers and onsite contractors earlier on Thursday, part of several new Biden initiatives to get more Americans vaccinated and slow the spread of the Delta variant.

  • The plan outlines aggressive next steps from the federal government as COVID-19 cases surge across the country due to the contagious Delta variant and as demand for vaccines has tapered off.

Driving the news: The new initiatives include:

  • Requiring federal workers, military members and onsite contractors to declare their vaccination status. Those not fully vaccinated will be required to wear face masks at work, get tested 1-2 times per week, socially distance, and won't be allowed to travel for work.
    • Biden added his team was looking into applying similar rules for all federal contractors. "If you want to do business with the federal government, get your workers vaccinated," he said.
  • Directing the Department of Defense to look into adding COVID-19 vaccination to the list of mandatory inoculations for people in the military.
  • Expanding paid leave for families to get vaccinated by reimbursing small-and-medium sized businesses who allow their employees and their families to get paid time off for vaccinations.
  • Calling on states, territories, and local governments to offer $100 to newly vaccinated individuals, as an additional vaccine incentive.
  • Increasing vaccination rates among teens by calling on pharmacies to hold pop-up vaccination clinics at schools and colleges.

The big picture: Biden stated that the country is experiencing a "pandemic of the unvaccinated."

  • Biden added that currently booster shots are not needed but that this could change in the future. He also noted that the U.S. has enough doses to provide boosters if they become necessary.
  • He addressed vaccine hesitancy among some and commended Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell for encouraging people to get vaccinated.
  • Asked about vaccine mandates, Biden noted that it's "still a question whether the federal government can mandate the whole country" to get inoculated.
  • Biden called the abundant vaccine supply in the U.S a "blessing" which would be a "shame to squander."

What he's saying: "Masking is one defense against the spread of COVID-19. But make no mistake. Vaccines are the best defense against you getting severely ill from COVID-19. The very best defense," Biden said.

  • "The decision to be unvaccinated impacts someone else. Unvaccinated people spread the virus. They get sick and fill up our hospitals and that means if someone else has a heart attack or breaks a hip, there may not be a hospital bed for them," Biden warned.
  • "Get vaccinated for yourself, for the people you love, for your country."
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