Biden to announce new COVID-19 vaccine mandate for federal workers

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden is toughening COVID-19 vaccination requirements for federal workers and contractors Thursday as he seeks to curb the spread of the highly transmissible delta variant and convince vaccine skeptics to get their shots,

In July, Biden announced that federal government employees and onsite contractors would be required to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or to undergo regular testing and other measures to stymie the spread of the viral infection.

>> Related: Coronavirus: Biden sets vaccination requirement for federal workers

In a new executive order signed Thursday, Biden mandated that executive branch employees and contractors that do business with the federal government get vaccinated, according to the AP.

It was not not immediately clear whether the order would allow for exceptions for workers seeking religious or medical exemptions from vaccination, the AP reported.

The president is set to deliver remarks Thursday afternoon on his plan to stop the delta variant and increase vaccinations.

The highly transmissible delta variant of COVID-19, combined with ongoing vaccine hesitancy, has fueled new spikes in COVID-19 cases reported nationwide, according to public health officials. Research has shown that fully vaccinated people can spread the delta variant, which accounts for more than 80% of all COVID-19 cases reported across the U.S.; however, officials have noted that vaccination protects well against severe and life-threatening symptoms of the viral infection.

>> Related: How do you know if you have the delta variant; what are the symptoms?

Across the U.S., about 73% of all adults have received at least one vaccine dose as of Wednesday morning, according to latest data available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About 53% of the total U.S. population, or 177.1 million people, has so far been fully vaccinated.

The United States leads the world with the most coronavirus cases and the highest death toll. Since the start of the pandemic, officials have confirmed more than 40.4 million infections and reported more than 652,000 deaths nationwide, according to numbers compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

More than 222.6 million COVID-19 cases have been reported worldwide, resulting in nearly 4.6 million deaths, according to Johns Hopkins.

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