Unvaccinated federal employees must begin weekly COVID-19 testing by Feb. 15, Biden administration says

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Federal agencies should establish a COVID-19 screening testing program by Feb. 15 for unvaccinated workers, including those who have an approved or pending request for an exception or extension from the Biden administration's vaccination requirement for federal employees, according to new guidance issued Jan. 11.

The guidance says unvaccinated federal employees "should be tested weekly for any week during which they work onsite or interact in person with members of the public as part of their job duties."

Federal officials also noted that agencies may require more frequent testing for unvaccinated employees, "such as for certain roles, functions or work environments."

Agencies generally are not required to include on-site contractor employees or fully vaccinated employees in their screening testing programs, although they have flexibility to do so as necessary, the Biden administration said.

As part of his strategy to contain the pandemic, President Joe Biden revealed Sept. 9 a mandate requiring that federal executive branch workers, as well as employees of contractors that do business with the federal government, be vaccinated against COVID-19, with limited medical and religious exemptions.    

For employees who do not comply, the Biden administration has instructed agencies to first undertake a period of education and counseling. Employees could then face disciplinary action up to and including termination, according to The Washington Post. Employees who have an approved or pending exemption request must be tested regularly and take other safety measures.

As of Dec. 8, the federal government reported that 92.5 percent of employees had received at least one shot.  

For workers who refuse testing, agencies may prohibit the employee from the agency workplace pending resolution of any disciplinary or other action, the Biden administration said Jan. 11. 

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