Asked during a press conference whether he would impose a vaccine mandate on the federal workforce, Biden said, “That’s under consideration right now.”
“But if you’re not vaccinated, you’re not nearly as smart as I thought you were,” the president added.
CNN, citing a source with direct knowledge of the issue, reported that a vaccine mandate for federal workers was imminent.
Biden will announce the mandate on Thursday, the network reported. It will require all federal employees and contractors to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or undergo regular testing and other measures, CNN said.
Biden’s remarks on Tuesday came on the heels of a reversal in mask guidance by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, which said earlier in the day that it now recommended vaccinated people wear masks indoors in areas with “substantial” and “high” transmission of the coronavirus. Those descriptions currently apply to more than 60% of all U.S. counties.
The CDC had previously said that fully vaccinated people could eschew masks — despite World Health Organization advice urging otherwise. But CDC officials said the agency was changing its guidance because of “worrisome” new science about the delta variant.
“In recent days, I have seen new scientific data from recent outbreak investigations showing that the delta variant behaves uniquely differently from past strains of the virus that cause COVID-19,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky told reporters. “This new science is worrisome and unfortunately warrants an update to our recommendations. This is not a decision that we or CDC has made lightly.”
When later pressed as to whether the shifting CDC advice would “sow confusion,” Biden said it was the unvaccinated who were fueling uncertainty.
“We’d be in a very different world” if unvaccinated Americans chose to get the vaccine, he said.
“So get vaccinated,” he said.