President Biden said Tuesday he’s considering imposing a vaccine mandate for federal employees amid a significant uptick in COVID-19 cases.
“That’s under consideration right now. But if you’re not vaccinated, you’re not nearly as smart as I thought you were,” Mr. Biden said after delivering a speech at the Office of Director of National Intelligence. “We have a pandemic because of the unvaccinated, they are sowing enormous confusion.”
“The more we learn about this virus, the more we have to be worried and concerned,” the president said.
“The only one thing we know for sure is that if those other hundred million people got vaccinated, we’d be in a very different world,” Mr. Biden said. “So get vaccinated.”
The Department of Veterans Affairs on Monday became the first federal agency requiring all employees to get vaccinated.
Officials in California and New York City have imposed similar mandates to get vaccinated or face weekly testing. All told, the three mandates apply to nearly three million workers.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Monday that the Biden administration had not made a determination on whether it would require federal employees, either civilian or military, to be vaccinated.
But she said the administration had not deemed an employee vaccine mandate to be illegal.
“It’s is certainly prudent for the federal government to be looking at any steps, just like any employer is, to your point of how we can incentivize people getting vaccinated, protect more people, save more lives,” Ms. Psaki said.
The U.S. is averaging about 50,000 new COVID-19 cases a day, up from about 19,000 cases two weeks ago, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
The surge is continuing despite nearly 60% of the adult population being vaccinated, according to the latest statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Unvaccinated individuals account for 97% of hospitalizations and deaths in the U.S., the White House said. States with some of the lowest vaccination rates have some of the highest number of cases, according to CDC statistics.