WASHINGTON: The Biden administration said on Tuesday (Jan 11) that federal agencies should require weekly COVID-19 testing by Feb 15 for unvaccinated government employees who are working on-site or interacting with the public.
A vaccine mandate imposed by President Joe Biden in September covers about 3.5 million federal workers and required them to be fully vaccinated by Nov 22 or face potential discipline or even termination.
The administration said on Tuesday that unvaccinated employees - including those seeking religious or medical exemptions - "should be tested weekly for any week during which they work on-site or interact in person with members of the public as part of their job duties. Agencies may require more frequent testing."
The rules do not apply to federal workers who are working remotely.
As of Dec 8, the US government said it has achieved 97.2 per cent compliance, with 92.5 per cent of employees having received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose.
The White House Office and Management and Budget (OMB) last month encouraged federal agencies not to issue discipline beyond education and counseling or a letter of reprimand for most employees who had not complied until January. OMB did not immediately comment on how many US employees have been disciplined for failing to comply with the rules.
Biden's vaccine mandate does not cover federal employees in the judicial and legislative branches or workers in the US Postal Service (USPS).
USPS is covered by a vaccine or testing mandate for companies with 100 or more employees, but has asked for a delay in meeting those requirements.
The administration said on Tuesday that federal agencies may impose disciplinary measures on workers who refuse to get tested, and may also bar employees from agency workplaces pending resolution of any disciplinary action.