NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – Thousands of New Mexican workers will be impacted by the president’s latest order to mandate vaccines for federal employees. Some federal agencies in the state say a majority of their workforce is already vaccinated, but the future of the unvaccinated staff remains up in the air. On Thursday, President Joe Biden announced one of the most widespread COVID-19 vaccine requirements for federal employees, impacting thousands here in New Mexico.
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“Many of us are frustrated with the nearly 80 million Americans who are still not vaccinated,” said Pres. Biden. “Even though the vaccine is safe, effective and free.”
The mandate not only impacts federal agencies but those who contract with them, as well. Sandia National Labs says more than 14,000 of their employees are fully vaccinated, including contractors.
“I’ve signed another executive order that will require federal contractors to do the same,” said Biden. “If you want to work with the federal government, do business, get vaccinated.”
Los Alamos National Lab and the Air Force Research Lab say they’re also looking into their staff vaccinations. Earlier this summer, the Very Large Array beat Biden to the punch and announced their own vaccine mandate by Sept. 1, leaving some frustrated.
“Their hope is that they’ll be able to replace us,” Dan Mertely told us back in July, who served as a radio frequency engineer at the time. “I think the problem is that it’s an unnecessary disruption in people’s lives and an unnecessary disruption in the observatory itself.”
The VLA says as of today, a total of 16 employees have either resigned, retired or been fired as a result. That’s out of a total of 265 New Mexico employees for the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, which is a facility of the National Science Foundation.
“If a federal worker fails to comply they will go through the standard HR process which includes counseling and face disciplinary action,” said Jen Psaki, White House Press Secretary. “Each agency is going to work with employees to make sure they understand the benefits of vaccination and how the vaccines are free easy and widely accessible. But it will start to be applied once the executive order is signed.”
The Department of Labor will also require companies with 100 or more employees to vaccinate or show a negative COVID test once a week. The White House says U.S. Postal Service workers will fall under this rule.
Thousands of Head Start employees will also be required to get the vaccine. The New Mexico Head Start Association says they’re looking into current staff vax numbers.
Biden says one of the exceptions to the federal mandate is for medical and religious exemptions. According to some of the agencies in the state, they’re already seeing requests coming in.