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Government Employees Facing First COVID-19 Vaccine Requirements as Delta Variant Spreads

California governor Gavin Newsom in Los Angeles, February 16, 2021 (Mike Blake/Reuters)

As concern over the highly contagious COVID-19 Delta variant rises, government workers are facing new mandates to get vaccinated.

The Department of Veterans Affairs announced on Monday that it will require 115,000 of its “most patient-facing” workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19 in the next two months. The workers affected by the new policy, including doctors, dentists, registered nurses, physician assistants and some specialists will have eight weeks to get fully vaccinated lest they face penalties including possible removal.

“I am doing this because it’s the best way to keep our veterans safe, full stop,” Denis McDonough, the secretary of veterans affairs, reportedly told the New York Times.

While the VA is the first federal agency to mandate the shots, it joins the state of California, New York City, and numerous hospital chains in instituting a vaccine or testing requirement. 

Also on Monday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that he would require all municipal workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19 before schools reopen in September. Those who do not comply will face weekly testing. 

The policy will apply to some 340,000 city workers, including teachers and police officers. The city also issued a similar mandate for its public health care workers last week. New York follows San Fransisco, which has already put vaccine requirements in place specifically for high-risk workplaces. 

Meanwhile, California Governor Gavin Newsom announced on Monday that he will require all state employees and health care workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or face testing at least weekly, making California the first state to impose such a requirement on government employees. 

Roughly 246,000 state employees will be subject to the requirement beginning August 9. It will be implemented by August 23, the governor said.

Monday’s policies come after the city of San Francisco, several Bay Area counties, the University of California and numerous hospital systems nationwide have announced similar measures.

Last month, a federal judge in Texas dismissed a lawsuit filed by employees of Houston Methodist Hospital who challenged the hospital’s COVID-19 vaccine requirement.

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