Watch Live: Biden to mandate COVID-19 vaccine for federal employees and contractors

Washington — President Biden will announce the most sweeping COVID-19 vaccine requirements yet on Thursday, including a requirement that all employees at companies with at least 100 employees be vaccinated or undergo regular testing. The White House estimates the change will affect more than 80 million workers. 

The president is also announcing vaccination requirements for health care providers that accept Medicare and Medicaid, for all federal employees and contractors and  for the staffs of Head Start programs, Department of Defense Schools and Bureau of Indian Education-operated schools. Mr. Biden had announced in July the federal workforce would need to provide evidence that they had been  vaccinated or submit to regular testing and practice social distancing measures in the workplace. 

The new mandates are part of a six-pronged White House strategy to battle the COVID-19 Delta variant and boost vaccinations as cases, hospitalizations and deaths continue to climb. Mr. Biden plans to lay out the plan in remarks at 5 p.m. on Thursday.

The Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration is developing a rule requiring all employers with at least 100 employees to make sure their workforce is fully vaccinated or require unvaccinated workers to get a negative test at least once a week. OSHA will issue an Emergency Temporary Standard to introduce the vaccine requirement. On Thursday , White House press secretary Jen Psaki said that large employers can be required to mandate the vaccine. Psaki also said earlier this week the federal government cannot impose a universal vaccine requirement on all Americans. 

President Joe Biden speaks about Hurricane Henri and Afghanistan evacuations in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Sunday, Aug. 22, 2021, in Washington. Manuel Balce Ceneta / AP

There will be limited disability and religious exceptions to the federal employee vaccine requirement, Psaki also said. Those who are not exempt and do not comply will be subject to disciplinary action, including possible termination, she said. 

“There are limited exceptions, but yeah, the expectation is that if you want to work in the federal government or be a contractor, you need to be vaccinated, unless you are eligible for one of the exemptions,” Psaki told reporters. 

The American Federation of Government Employees, AFL-CIO, the largest federal employee union, is taking issue with the mandatory vaccine requirement, even though it has encouraged workers to get vaccinated. AFL-CIO president Everett Kelley said that “changes like this should be negotiated with our bargaining units where appropriate,” and he said the union expects to bargain over this rule before it’s implemented.

Still, Psaki said the president “has every intention of signing this executive order, getting the clock running on the timeline for these requirements, and his view and our view is this will serve as a model to the rest of the country on the need to get more people vaccinated in order to save more lives.” 

The president is also expected to announce measures to ensure kids are adequately protected in classrooms, as he aims to make more testing available. 

The six pillars Mr. Biden will discuss are:

  1. Vaccinating the unvaccinated

  2. Furthering protection for the vaccinated

  3. Keeping schools safely open 

  4. Increasing testing and requiring masking

  5. Protecting our economic recovery

  6. Improving care for those with COVID-19

CBS News has learned the president will raise the issue of COVID vaccination effort on a global scale with other world leaders when they meet at the United Nations General Assembly later this month. A senior administration official told CBS News that while they are “still planning the president’s schedule around UN General Assembly High Level week, it is safe to assume we are actively looking at COVID-19 and public-health centered options.”  

The official stopped short of calling it a summit, but added that the administration anticipates “that there will be an opportunity for the president to engage with his counterparts on this issue during UNGA week.” One topic expected to be discussed among Mr. Biden and his counterparts, according to a second administration official will be about advancing and improving international cooperation on research and development on the COVID-19 front. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 75.2% of American adults have at least one COVID-19 vaccine shot. But community transmission across most of the country remains high, as the Delta variant makes up nearly all of the country’s cases. 

Nearly 650,000 people have died in the U.S. from COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic last year.