Veterans Affairs officials are requiring again all employees and visitors in most US VA buildings, regardless of their vaccination status, in accordance with new federal guidelines to limit the spread of the coronavirus resurgence.
The move comes one day after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urged a return to mask wearing. Nationwide surge in cases was key on this call. Additionally, officials announced a mandate for front-line medical employees to get vaccinated against the virus or risk losing their jobs.
VA Secretary Denis McDonough said that staff are seeing a surge of cases among patients and staff across the department. The reluctance of some staff to get vaccinated is potentially jeopardizing the health of visitors and other employees.
“We’re seeing staffing requirements increase as it is,” McDonough told reporters during a press conference on Tuesday. “We’re going to continue to see pressure on the system. And that’s something that I can’t sit and wait to develop for our veterans. It is true especially as we get into the fall with what we expect to be greater COVID infections.”
In a message sent out to all VA staff Wednesday morning, Chief of Staff Tanya Bradsher said that masks will be required for all staff and outside visitors “in areas of substantial or high community transmission.”
Masks are Required
The mask mandate includes the Washington, D.C. area. This means that masks will be required at the VA medical center in town and department headquarters. VA facility leaders outside the National Capital Region are being required to “with CDC to see if they work in a high or substantial risk of transmission county and plan accordingly.”
Previously, only unvaccinated individuals were required to wear masks indoors at VA facilities.
Many states have seen sharp increases in infection rates and coronavirus-related deaths in recent weeks. This surge is related to the Delta variant of the virus has fueled another nationwide wave of infections.
Along with the mask mandate and partial staff vaccination requirement, VA leaders are considering an order that all VA employees get vaccinated. (continue reading)