Biden to issue COVID-19 vaccine mandate for federal workers
Joe Biden (AFP)

During a Thursday night speech laying out his administration's plans to contain the coronavirus pandemic that continues to overwhelm the nation's hospitals, U.S. President Joe Biden is expected to announce that the vast majority of federal workers must be vaccinated against Covid-19.

According to the New York Times, "The mandate will apply to employees of the executive branch, including the White House and all federal agencies and members of the armed services—a workforce that numbers more than four million—but not to those who work for Congress or the federal court system."

Unlike the existing vaccine rules for federal workers that Biden implemented earlier this summer, the president's forthcoming executive order will not allow employees to opt out through regular testing, CNN reported, citing an unnamed source familiar with the plans.

Biden is also expected to sign another executive order that would extend the same standard to contractors who work with the federal government.

The Department of Defense, the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Indian Health Service, and the National Institute of Health already announced mandatory vaccination requirements for their 2.5 million workers.

The White House has praised employers in the public and private sectors for requiring workers to be inoculated, CNN noted, and wants the federal government to "act as a model" for companies throughout the country.

Biden is expected to encourage businesses to impose stronger vaccine rules on employees and customers during his speech on Thursday.

The president is also reportedly set to announce an expansion of free testing, which public health officials have said is increasingly crucial as some adults return to workplaces and now that millions of kids, many of whom are vaccine-ineligible, are back in classrooms.

Children, who now account for approximately 27% of new Covid-19 cases, have been made more susceptible to infection in states where GOP governors have banned mask-wearing requirements, another topic Biden is expected to address on Thursday.

Biden will also reportedly discuss booster shots, which have been a source of confusion due to uncertainty about when third doses will be authorized as well as criticism given the vast inequities in global vaccine access.

Covid-19 has killed roughly 653,000 people in the U.S., while the global death toll has climbed to nearly 4.6 million.