End of Emergency Puts the Fate of COVID-19 Policies for Feds and Safety Task Force Up in the Air
The Biden administration is reviewing its protocols and will issue further guidance, an official said.
The Biden administration is deciding what to do with its task force dedicated to the safety of federal employees during the COVID-19 pandemic, with the emergency declarations related to the pandemic ending.
“As we said when the administration announced its intent to end the Public Health Emergency and National Emergency in May, we are reviewing all relevant policies in the coming weeks and will issue further guidance,” a senior administration official said on Wednesday. This includes a review of the executive order President Biden issued right after coming into office on protecting the federal workforce from COVID-19 (which established the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force) as well as “a review of the COVID-19 safety protocols for federal facilities.” In the meantime, the executive order “remains in effect and federal agency workplace safety protocols for federal buildings and federally-controlled facilities still apply in all locations.”
The task force, whose leadership includes the director of the Office of Personnel Management, head of the General Services Administration and the White House response coordinator, has provided COVID-19 guidance and updates on mask wearing, vaccination policies, testing and more on its website.
In August, it told agencies to stop all testing aimed at unvaccinated employees as well as to cease asking federal employees, contractors and visitors if they were vaccinated before coming into federal buildings. The COVID-19 vaccination mandates for federal employees and contractors are not being enforced due to ongoing litigation. The task force last posted an update in October.
On Monday, Biden signed a Republican-backed resolution to end the COVID-19 national emergency, which came about a month before its scheduled end date. White House officials have been stressing that they’ve been preparing for a while now for this to end smoothly. The public health emergency is still scheduled to end in May.
The White House is poised to shutter its COVID-19 task force when the public health emergency ends in May and Dr. Ashish Jha, COVID-19 response coordinator, will be leaving, The Washington Post reported last month.