There’s yet another sign of a partial return to normality inside the federal government and the Biden administration running up the white flag in terms of the vaccination wars. Starting next week, there will be no more “special” COVID testing protocols for federal employees based on their vaccination status. Offices that require testing (particularly in healthcare facilities) will have all employees tested and will no longer inquire as to the worker’s vaccination status. Offices without mandatory testing requirements will cease mandating testing for unvaccinated workers. While this should come as a welcome change and be seen as an end to discriminatory practices, some of these employees must have one question on their minds. Why couldn’t they have done this from the beginning? (Government Executive)
The Biden administration is instructing agencies to cease all COVID-19 testing aimed specifically at unvaccinated employees, marking a new approach in the fight against the coronavirus and the push to get all federal workers inoculated.
Agencies will no longer conduct “serial screening testing” based on vaccination status as they shift away from differential treatment based on whether employees are up to date on their shots. They will also stop asking employees, contractors and visitors if they are vaccinated before entering federal buildings as they will no longer differentiate safety protocols based on vaccination status. The administration distributed the guidance in an email from the Chief Human Capital Officers Council, which was obtained by Government Executive and first published by Federal News Network. The changes will go into effect by Aug. 22.
Some facilities in settings that require it will continue testing all employees. Agencies will not, however, initiate any new testing programs that are not already underway. Similarly, some agencies at certain sites can continue requesting vaccination information, but the council told agencies to stop using the governmentwide vaccination certification form.
This new policy is as close as the federal government has come to admitting that the pandemic is over and COVID is here to stay. There is also no mention in the announcement of the government continuing its attempts to fire everyone who refused to comply with the vaccine mandates.
Isolation policies were also changed as part of this announcement. Up until now, anyone shown to have potentially been exposed to the virus through contact tracing followed rules based on their vaccination status. The unvaccinated were required to stay out of the office while the vaccinated were not forced to isolate themselves unless they began to show symptoms. Now, everyone will be allowed to remain in the office as long as they remain asymptomatic.
As far as masking goes in federal offices, the same rules will also apply to everyone. In areas rated as having high transmission rates, masks will be required indoors for all regardless of vaccination status. Local masking rules will also be recognized. But aside from that, masks are optional.
So what happened to the vaccine mandate? Weren’t the unvaccinated all supposed to be fired by now? Well, that policy remains on hold while challenges to it make their way through the appeals process. It’s estimated that more than 100,000 federal workers remain on the payroll while not being vaccinated. One legal analyst speculated that the more the country accepts that the vaccine will be with us permanently, the less likely the courts will be to side with the mandates.
So what happens to all of the workers who were either fired or resigned from their jobs in anticipation of being fired because they refused to comply? What compensation will be available to them for the disruption of their careers? Are we all supposed to just forget about them, return to our normal lives, and pretend all of this never happened? As I’ve said from the beginning, I predict that history will not look back kindly on the federal government’s handling of the pandemic in many ways. And one of the worst was the creation of a second, lower class of citizens composed of those who wouldn’t roll up their sleeves. But I suppose we should count ourselves lucky that the government didn’t take us all the way to internment camps.