Justice Department Outlines Vaccine Attestation and Testing Protocols
Additional information is coming soon for on-site contractors, travel and more.
The Justice Department on Friday outlined new coronavirus vaccine attestation and testing protocols for federal employees, onsite contractors and visitors.
In a memo to department employees obtained by Government Executive, Assistant Attorney General for Administration Lee Loftus provided additional guidance for implementing the new policy President Biden announced on July 29 as well as the additional guidelines the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force released on August 6. The Justice Department has 59 sub-agencies that operate across the country.
“Once the new protocols become effective (which will occur on a rolling basis), individuals may not be allowed entry into department facilities unless they are in compliance with the protocols,” wrote Loftus. “At this time, we are beginning implementation only of the vaccine attestation requirements for employees and visitors.”
Federal employees, regardless if they are working in person or teleworking, must complete a Certification of Vaccination Form and update it if there is a change in their vaccination status. “Employees who are not fully vaccinated will be required to obtain and provide to their supervisor (or component designee) a negative COVID-19 test result, from a test taken within the past three days, each time they enter a department facility or participate in an official meeting or function in another location other than the telework location,” said the memo. “The department is developing a program to facilitate testing for employees.”
In its August 6 guidance, the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force didn’t provide details on how agencies should set up testing programs. However, it did say that agencies are allowed to choose what type of COVID-19 tests visitors or onsite contractors can show as long as the tests are approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Setting up testing programs will be more challenging for some agencies than others. Some, like the Veterans Affairs Department, already have the infrastructure in place, Government Executive reported earlier this month.
The Justice Department will not share employees’ vaccine information with other federal agencies for purposes of facility entrance, nor will other agencies share their information with Justice. “Employees will be considered visitors at agencies other than their own,” said Loftus.
Onsite contractors will be subject to the same health and safety protocols as federal employees and “further guidance on implementation procedures will be provided for contractors in the near future,” said the memo from Loftus. It is not clear how many onsite contractors the agency has.
As for visitors, they must comply with the new guidance unless they are entering “to obtain a public service or benefit.” Department components have the discretion to determine who this applies to.
The department expects to share an updated version of its work safety plan as well as guidance for travel and attendance at large meetings, with employees and contractors in the next few weeks.
When asked on August 11 if the new, highly transmissible delta variant is complicating return-to-office plans across government, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said no. “We trust that each agency is going to have their own implementation plan for how they can have in place a testing regime in order to keep their workforce safe,” she said.
So far, the Veterans Affairs and Health and Human Services departments have vaccine mandates for some of their employees and the Defense Department will make vaccines mandatory for service members in mid-September or as soon as the Food and Drug Agency gives the vaccines formal approval (whatever comes first). Also, the Coast Guard and National Guard are preparing for vaccine mandates, pending directions from the Pentagon, Military.com reported on August 10.