President Biden Announces New COVID-19 Safety Protocols For Onsite Federal Contractors

Husch Blackwell LLP

On July 29th, 2021, President Biden announced additional efforts to increase COVID-19 vaccination rates and to protect the federal workforce, including strengthening safety protocols for federal employees and contractors. Under the Biden Administration’s new guidance, in areas of high or substantial transmission of COVID-19, federal employees, contractors, and visitors must wear a mask inside federal buildings with limited exceptions. Individuals who are not fully vaccinated must wear a mask regardless of community transmission level.

Federal agencies must ask about the vaccination status of federal employees and onsite contractors. Such employees and contractors will be required to sign an attestation confirming their vaccination status, or they will be treated as not fully vaccinated for purposes of safety protocols. Federal agencies must also establish a program to test not fully vaccinated Federal employees and onsite contractors weekly or twice weekly.

Fully vaccinated federal employees and onsite contractors do not need to physically distance or participate in weekly screening testing and are not subject to any government-wide restrictions on official travel. In areas of low or moderate transmission, they do not need to wear a mask.

The Administration recently released further guidance providing clarification on these safety protocols. This guidance directs agencies to provide onsite contractors with the U.S. Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB) Certification of Vaccination form when they enter a federal building or federally-controlled indoor worksite. Unless an agency has an existing system of records notice that permits it to collect and maintain information on its contractors, agencies are required to direct onsite contractors to complete the Certification of Vaccination form and keep it with them during their time on federal premises. Onsite contractors who are not fully vaccinated or who decline to disclose vaccination status will either be enrolled in the agency’s testing program or required to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test result from within the previous three days before entry to a federal building or federally-controlled indoor worksite.

Contractors should begin to assess the compliance impact of these new measures. Contractors should inform employees of their new disclosure or screening testing obligations. In addition, contractors should ensure that they are complying with federal, state, and local anti-discrimination laws that impact or touch upon vaccination or other COVID related measures or protocols.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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