“Beginning today, all employees, regardless of vaccination status, will be required to wear a mask indoors & physically distance,” the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced on Wednesday.
The DHS is the federal government’s third-largest cabinet department, employing more than 240,000 people.
The order comes a day after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revised their earlier guidance and recommended that the vaccinated and unvaccinated alike wear masks indoors in areas where Covid-19 transmission is high. President Joe Biden announced shortly afterwards that a vaccine mandate for federal workers is “under consideration right now,” amid media reports that such a mandate will be announced later this week.
On Monday, the Department of Veterans Affairs became the first government department to require its employees – albeit only those who work in a medical capacity – to get vaccinated. The White House previously avoided recommending mandatory inoculation in the workplace, but the Justice Department concluded earlier this week that federal law does not prohibit vaccine mandates by either public or private employers.
Though mandatory vaccination appears to be imminent, its effect on the spread of the coronavirus remains to be seen. CDC Director Rochelle Walensky defended the new mask guidance on Tuesday by stating that officials believe vaccinated people infected with the delta variant of the coronavirus can still spread it to others, and may carry higher levels of the virus than the unvaccinated.
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