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White House Guidance Directs Federal Agencies to Set Up COVID-19 Testing Programs by February

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The White House has issued new guidance directing federal agencies to establish testing programs by Feb. 15, to facilitate COVID-19 screening of certain unvaccinated federal personnel and onsite contractor employees, Nextgov reported Tuesday.

An updated guidance from the Biden administration’s Safer Federal Workforce Task Force states that agencies should subject to weekly testing unvaccinated employees who go to a federal facility or interact with the members of the public.

“For certain roles, functions, or work environments, an agency may determine that it is necessary that certain onsite contractor employees, certain employees regardless of their vaccination status, or certain employees and certain onsite contractor employees regardless of their vaccination status must participate in screening testing, given operational or administrative considerations associated with conducting screening testing for those roles, functions, or work environments,” the notice reads. 

The task force said agencies may use antigen tests and other Food and Drug Administration-authorized viral tests and may opt to do the screening through drive-through or in-store testing, swab-testing capabilities and over-the-counter tests.

“Agencies should establish a means of verifying the date and result of a test—the test should not be both self-administered and self-read by the employee unless observed by the agency or an authorized onsite or telehealth provider,” the notice states.

An agency may impose disciplinary action if a federal employee enrolled in the testing program declines to take a COVID-19 test.

The task force also noted that the screening protocols will not apply to unvaccinated employees who are working remotely or those on maximum telework. However, if they need to go to an agency facility, they should be screened in advance and present proof of a negative test result.