With the Delta variant surging, a growing number of employers are tiring of merely cajoling workers to get vaccinated and are following President Joe Biden’s protocol for federal workers: Either show proof of vaccination, or mask up and get regular testing if you want to work on-site.
The federal government – the nation’s largest employer – will require unvaccinated employees to wear masks while working and get regular testing, and take other precautions, like maintaining physical distance from coworkers and restricting work travel. Several states, including Hawaii, California, Maryland, Virginia and Washington, also say unvaccinated state workers must get regular tests.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Wednesday broadly extended such a mandate to teachers and all school employees, the first state to do so.
Those programs, with their testing alternative, differ from outright mandates to get vaccinated – as some health care organizations including the health care workforce of the Department of Health and Human Services, hospitals and the US military are requiring.
Employers, fearing a backlash, frame the policy as a choice, with both sides of the equation seen as effective in reducing the spread of Covid-19. Do public health experts think this approach will help?
All agreed the best solution is universal vaccination. Short of that, many said the moves by employers will add a layer of protection – although how much remains to be seen.
Test results are “really only a snapshot in time,” said Dr. Gigi Kwik Gronvall, an associate professor at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Even testing every day, as was the standard in the