Mayor Muriel E. Bowser of Washington on Tuesday directed all 37,000 city employees and contractors who work with the city to get vaccinated against the coronavirus, or undergo weekly testing by Sept. 19.
The action follows President Biden’s recent announcement that federal workers would face restrictions and requirements, including testing, if they did not get vaccinated. New York, Virginia, Hawaii and Puerto Rico, have made similar moves, while Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington State said Monday that most state employees and all health care workers had to be fully vaccinated or risk losing their jobs.
Additionally, the Pentagon said Monday that it will seek to make vaccinations mandatory for the country’s 1.3 million active-duty troops “no later” than the middle of next month.
“We know that we have been very steadfast and successful in crushing this virus in the district,” Ms. Bowser said at a news conference. “And now we’re going to do the same with the Delta variant. The way to do it, however, is to get everybody vaccinated.”
The policy falls short of a mandate, but all new hires filling job vacancies posted on Aug. 14 or later will need to show proof of vaccination.
“We will, of course, have a process for people who want to apply for exemptions and any unvaccinated employee, even those who qualify for the medical or religious exemption, will be required to conduct a weekly Covid-19 test and failure to comply will lead to adverse employment actions,” Ms. Bowser said.
Only 59 percent of city employees have reported their vaccine status, according to the mayor’s office. Of those, 54 percent are vaccinated.
Daily new cases across the city have soared, according to a New York Times database, which also shows that hospitalizations have risen 5 percent and that there were three deaths over the same period.
Fifty-three percent of all city residents are fully vaccinated, according to federal data. People younger than 12 are not eligible for the vaccine.
“What’s driving our increasing cases right now is really that 25-to-34-year-old population,” Dr. LaQuandra Nesbitt, the director of the city’s health department, said at the news conference. “And we don’t see any meaningful disparities in terms of who are those new cases from a race and ethnicity perspective.”
But Dr. Nesbitt added that there was a wide gap in vaccine coverage for that age group, with Black residents having half the rate of coverage as their white and Latino counterparts.
“We are also going to do a better job once everybody gets vaccinated and helping to prevent more of these variants from taking over our communities,” she said.
The city gives incentives to all city residents, including public employees, who are 12 and older, like a $51 gift card for receive their first dose of the vaccine at one of its three walk-up vaccination sites. And residents ages 12 to 17 get AirPods for being among the first 400 youths to get inoculated at school vaccination sites.