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Fed regional banks mandate COVID-19 shots for employees

Kitco News

(Reuters) - With little fanfare, all of the Federal Reserve's regional banks have followed the Minneapolis Fed's July decision to require employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19, with the Philadelphia Fed telling its staff of the new mandate on Wednesday.

The regional Fed banks of New York, Boston, St. Louis, San Francisco, Chicago, Richmond, Cleveland, Dallas, Atlanta and Kansas City all separately told their staff last month they would be subject to a vaccine mandate, with compliance deadlines set for as soon as Oct. 1 and as late as Nov. 15.

Employees at the Philadelphia Fed have until Nov. 30. All told, the 12 banks employ close to 20,000 people.

The requirement is necessary to protect workforce health and "ensure we're able to serve the needs of our constituents and do our part to combat the spread of COVID-19 and the formation of new variants within the communities we serve," a Dallas Fed spokesman told Reuters.

U.S. President Joe Biden announced last week he would require all U.S. businesses with 100 or more employees to ensure their staff are vaccinated or produce a negative COVID-19 test each week. Goldman Sachs economists estimate the new rule would likely impact about 25 million unvaccinated workers and deliver a modest bump to economic growth. The Philadelphia Fed said Biden's mandate was one factor in its decision.

Biden will meet Wednesday with executives from Walt Disney Co., Microsoft Corp. and others as part of the push to protect Americans from the spread of the virus that has filled hospital beds in some parts of the country and is slowing jobs growth nationally.

Most federal employees will also be subject to a new vaccine mandate by Nov. 22, the Biden administration said this week. The Fed's 2,900 staff in Washington are federal government employees.

Some Republican governors, including those in the Atlanta, Kansas City and Dallas Fed districts, oppose vaccine requirements and have vowed to fight them, citing freedom of choice or other concerns. Polls show a majority of Americans support some form of mandate. As of Sept. 1 about one in five U.S. companies had a vaccine mandate, a Reuters poll found.

U.S. central bankers argue that vaccination is the key to economic recovery, linking labor market recovery in particular to COVID-19 vaccine uptake. About 63% of the eligible U.S. population is fully vaccinated. Even so, the decision was fraught for some.

"This wasn't an easy decision for us, but vaccines offer strong protection against serious illness, hospitalization, and death, and we see them as the best way for us to address the pandemic's challenges with everyone's safety and well-being in mind," said André Anderson, first vice president of the Atlanta Fed, which told employees Aug. 26 they would have until Nov. 15 to get their shots.

A New York Fed spokesperson noted the bank's efforts to help overcome vaccine hesitancy, including holding vaccinations onsite. "Requiring a vaccine for all current and future New York Fed employees is essential as we contemplate a return to the office," the spokesperson said.

Reporting by Ann Saphir; Editing by Andrea Ricci

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