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Report: Biden to make vaccinations (or tests) mandatory for most federal employees and contractors

I say “most” because he’s sparing the military for now, according to CNN. Maybe it’d be too disruptive logistically to have troops tested as regularly as he expects civilian workers to be who don’t want to get the shot instead.

But if he’s willing to pressure civilians this way, it’s a cinch that the Pentagon will require inoculation for all service members once the vaccine is fully approved by the FDA.

Biden was asked today if he’s thinking of imposing a vaccine mandate on federal employees and said it was “under consideration”:

That was a fib, says CNN. The decision has been made:

President Joe Biden will announce on Thursday a requirement that all federal employees and contractors be vaccinated against Covid-19, or be required to submit to regular testing and mitigation requirements, according to a source with direct knowledge of the matter…

While the specifics are still being finalized, the source said, federal workers would be required to attest to their vaccination status or submit to regular testing. The source said the proposal will be roughly similar to what is being implemented in New York City. Additional requirements for the unvaccinated could be added as agencies push to vaccinate their employees.

The VA led the way yesterday, now the rest of the federal government will follow suit. We’re talking about upwards of 10 million people potentially between employees and contractors (although, again, the military is exempt from now). I continue not to understand why, a la NYC’s mandate, employees are being offered regular testing as an alternative to vaccination. Presumably there’s a legal reason; maybe they can’t require it until it’s been fully approved.

Whatever the answer, the White House seems to believe that it can goad people into getting vaccinated simply by making the alternative sufficiently annoying. Regular testing is just one part of the annoyance strategy:

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.

They could also hassle unvaxxed employees by requiring social distancing on the job, restrictions on work travel, and mask mandates — although the logic of that last one got considerably more complicated this afternoon. In short, the feds will be using essentially the same strategy Fox Corporation is using with its employees, including those at Fox News. Force unvaccinated employees to follow special precautions day after day, including regular testing, and you might wear them down to the point where they’ll get the shot just to end being nagged.

I assume lawsuits will come first, though, as well as angry phone calls to the White House from federal employee unions. Unions in New York City have been grousing about the new vaccine mandate since de Blasio announced it yesterday, demanding that the city government bargain with them over it. A quote for the ages: “The paramedics’ union said the city was disregarding its members’ civil liberties, and asked for overtime if workers must get tested outside of work hours.”

Paramedics, who are face to face with sick, vulnerable people all day and night long, consider it an affront that the city would demand that they take care not to get infected. And they’re willing to use organizational muscle to resist.

We’re in a weird political moment now, with Democrats lined up in support of employer vaccine mandates on one side and left-wing unions lined up against the mandates on the other, with Republicans forced to decide whom to align with. Are righty populists more anti-union than they are anti-vax or vice versa?

Here’s “The Five” battling over private employer mandates this afternoon. If the feds really want to move the needle on vaccination, the best thing they could do is have the FDA fully approve the vaccines: According to YouGov, more than a quarter of unvaccinated people say they’d be more likely to get their shots once that happens.