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President Joe Biden will announce more stringent vaccination mandates for federal workers and contractors tonight, according to CNN. The new rules are expected to be part of a larger plan to fight COVID-19 in the United States.
The president is scheduled to unveil his latest strategies for the pandemic from the White House at 5 p.m. ET.
Biden’s hope is to reset the U.S. response to the pandemic amid of a surge of new cases, hospitalizations, and deaths caused by the Delta variant.
He is expected to sign an executive order that will require all federal workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19, with no option for regular testing to opt out of the requirement.
The order tightens vaccination requirements ordered for federal employees earlier this year. Previously, the White House allowed federal workers to opt out of vaccination by agreeing to other measures, like regular testing.
Another executive order will extend the vaccination mandate to employees who work for companies that contract with the federal government.
Other federal health agencies, such as the Department of Veterans Affairs, Indian Health Services, and the National Institutes of Health, will proceed with their previously announced vaccination requirements, according to CNN.
Biden is also expected to address the confusion about booster shots and to announce an expansion of free testing. He will also pressure private businesses, states and schools to enact stricter vaccination and testing policies, according to The New York Times.
Thanks to federal funding, regular, rapid testing is already being used at many schools to help monitor cases and catch infections early, with the goal of keeping children under 12 — who can’t yet be vaccinated — in their classrooms.
Biden’s pivot on the pandemic comes after his administration had to backtrack on previously announced plans to offer extra doses of COVID-19 vaccines to anyone who wants them 8 months after their last inoculation. The administration said the move was to bolster immunity, which appeared to be waning against the Delta variant.
Soon after the announcement that the U.S. would offer boosters starting Sept. 20, two high-level vaccine reviewers at the FDA resigned. The pair were reportedly upset that the administration had made its plans ahead of the agency’s review.