Biden steps up efforts to fight virus surge fueled by Delta variant

President Joe Biden on Thursday stepped up actions to combat the spread of the surging Delta variant of the coronavirus, asking every U.S. federal worker to either declare they are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or wear masks and be tested.
"We have the tools to prevent this new wave of COVID from shutting down our businesses, our schools, our society as we saw happen last year," the veteran Democrat said in a speech on his administration's new initiatives.
The White House said just ahead of the address that all four million federal employees and on-site contractors "will be asked to attest to their vaccination status."
Those who do not declare they are fully vaccinated will be required to wear a mask on the job regardless of location, physically distance from co-workers, and "comply with a weekly or twice weekly screening testing requirement."
The moves stop short of a full-on vaccination mandate for federal workers -- something that was being considered as the administration was mulling ways to protect federal workers and set an example for the private sector.
But Biden said the nation needed to remain vigilant.
"We are not fully out of the woods," he said, urging Americans not to make the issues of vaccination or wearing masks political ones. "This is not about red states and blue states. It's literally about life and death."
Biden will direct the Pentagon to study adding COVID vaccinations to its list of required vaccinations for members of the U.S. military.
He also called on state and local governments to offer $100 as an incentive for holdouts to get vaccinated -- a nod to what the White House described as successful cash-for-jab efforts already implemented in some states.
The rules regarding getting vaccinated or masking up and getting regularly tested should not just apply to federal workers, with Biden set to urge private sector employers to follow suit, according to the White House.
"The federal government, we see ourselves as a model for other companies and other organizations, and that's something that we don't take lightly," said White House deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre.

© 2021 AFP
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