Buttigieg on federal union pushback to vaccine mandate: 'This is about protecting lives'

Buttigieg on federal union pushback to vaccine mandate: 'This is about protecting lives'
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Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg on Sunday defended the federal government's recent decision to require employees to either be vaccinated against the coronavirus or undergo regular testing and wear a mask.

"Well, this is about protecting lives," Buttigieg said on ABC's "This Week" in response to a question about pushback from a federal union on the new policy.

"This is about setting a good example," he added, emphasizing that federal employees have a choice.  

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"Either attest to their vaccination and indicate that that’s happened, or there has to be other measures to keep the workplace safe, including masking and social distancing, testing," he said. "This is a basic safety measure at a time when we continue to see this very dangerous variant spreading around our country." 

With the delta variant now sparking a nationwide spike in coronavirus cases, public health officials have recommended some states and cities consider reimposing mask mandates for all Americans, regardless of vaccination status. 

Workplaces have been grappling with how to safely return to normal operations amid another surge. 

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Private industry should be able to look to the federal government as an example of how they should handle the public health crisis, Buttigieg said on Sunday. 

"Look, we have so many obligations in so many dimensions of employee safety, to make sure that this is a safe workplace," he said. "This is part of that. But it’s also important I think for our federal workforce to lead by example because we’re asking the whole country to do what it takes to make sure that we get beyond this pandemic. And this is a very important part of how to do it."