Different policies apply to US government officials based on vaccination status

By Mia Hunt on 06/08/2022 | Updated on 08/06/2022

Vaccinated officials can now travel after close contact with someone with COVID-19 provided the trip is “mission critical,” while unvaccinated federals must wait at least five days before traveling. Photo by geraldfriedrich2 via Pixabay

The Biden administration has updated its COVID policy guidelines for the federal workforce, making clearer distinctions between vaccinated and unvaccinated employees regarding official travel, paid time off and others. areas.

The Safer Federal Workforce said in updated guidance last week that vaccinated personnel can travel for official purposes after having close contact with someone who has COVID-19 provided the travel is “essential.” to the mission”. Unvaccinated employees, however, must quarantine for at least five full days after contact with the infected person and may only be allowed to travel within 6-10 days of contact in “rare circumstances” and if the trip is urgent. In either case, individuals must test negative for coronavirus and show no symptoms before they can travel.

In previous versions of the guidelines, officials could not undertake business trips for 10 days after close contact with someone who has COVID-19, whether vaccinated or not. Although the guidelines do not refer to “vaccinated” or “unvaccinated” officials, they do distinguish between those who are recommended to quarantine and those who are not, based on vaccination status.

The task force — made up of officials from the White House, Office of Personnel Management, and General Services Administration — also told agencies via the updated FAQ section of its website that they must give paid leave to those self-isolating after close contact (i.e. those who are not up to date on their vaccinations) if they cannot work from home.

“Before granting such ‘weather and safety leave’ to employees who notify the agency that they have had known close contact, agencies must inform employees that making a false statement to the agency at this subject matter could result in disciplinary action, up to and including removal from federal service,” the guidelines state.

Although the guidelines do not expressly say that vaccinated employees can work from their usual place of work alongside colleagues immediately after close contact – provided they have tested negative – its reference only to those who are not at day with their vaccines in the section on quarantine after close contact, suggests that this is the case.

Biden’s vaccine mandate is another delay

President Joe Biden signed an executive order mandating COVID-19 vaccines for approximately 3.5 million federal employees and government contractors in September 2021. Employees were told they must be fully vaccinated or do facing the possibility of disciplinary action “up to and including removal from service”.

Read more: US government pushes to resume enforcement of vaccination mandate for federal workers

According to the White House, at the start of the year, 98% of federal employees were in compliance with the mandate. However, tens of thousands of employees have requested exemptions for medical or religious reasons or have not disclosed their vaccination status, in which case they are required to follow additional safety protocols, as outlined in the group’s guidelines. work.

In late January, a court issued an injunction against Biden’s warrant, ruling that his administration had exceeded its authority in issuing it. That decision was overturned by an appeals court in April over a technicality.

Standard procedure stipulates that there is a six-week period before the decision takes effect, which would have allowed the federal government to resume execution of the mandate at the end of May. However, Feds for Medical Freedom and a union representing some Department of Homeland Security employees — which brought the original case — are appealing the decision to reinstate the warrant, causing a delay. Enforcement could resume as early as Friday this week, although that depends on a number of factors presided over by the court.

Read more: Were governments right to introduce COVID-19 vaccination mandates?

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