The Federal Government's Internal Health Clinics Won't Help Test Employees for COVID-19, Despite New Mandate

mbz-photodesign / iStock.com

Managers throughout government said they have not been provided any support to implement the testing requirement.

The government is not providing COVID-19 testing to its employees at the federally run clinics positioned throughout the country, despite a new mandate requiring the tests for unvaccinated workers. 

Leadership at Federal Occupational Health, a division of the Health and Human Services Department that serves more than 350 agencies and 1.5 million employees, has told federal managers that COVID-19 testing is too expensive and laborious for it to conduct at any of its facilities. Some managers who spoke to Government Executive said they approached Federal Occupational Health after the Biden administration announced a requirement that all federal employees either attest that they have been vaccinated against COVID-19 or submit to at least weekly testing. 

Recent guidance from the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force—created by President Biden via executive order and led by the White House, General Services Administration and the Office of Personnel Management—suggested that agencies could rely on occupational health clinics to provide the testing. Leadership at the federal clinics told the managers that the agency was not consulted on the task force's guidance. 

A Federal Occupational Health official repeatedly said the agency “did not want to pursue that line of business,” one federal supervisor said after a conference call with its top leadership. The official stressed the task force’s guidance said testing may be available through the occupational health clinics, but did not require it. 

A second federal worker said the health agency stressed that it would have taken months to stand up a testing program and required extensive work to credential its employees to conduct tests. Federal Occupational Health is staffed by the U.S. Public Health Service’s Commissioned Corps, as well as Health and Human Services Department civil servants. Officials also told the manager that it would be overly costly to provide the testing. 

Both supervisors said employees within their agencies were rejected from receiving any care—such as a temperature check—that could be related to COVID-19 ever since the outset of the pandemic. They noted the clinics would normally provide services such as drawing blood and annual flu shots. Federal Occupational Health, created by Congress in 1946, boasts on its website that it provides a "comprehensive array of services [that] helps agencies promote workplace health, wellness and safety." HHS declined to comment for this story. 

Managers throughout government are raising concerns about the testing requirement, saying they have not been provided with sufficient guidance or resources to implement it. The Government Managers Coalition, consisting of five associations that represent federal supervisors, said in a recent letter to the task force that their needs during the pandemic have received "scant attention" from the Office of Personnel Management, the Office of Management and Budget, and the White House. 

“Failure by the administration to ensure agencies are properly equipping and empowering federal leaders to implement and execute the guidance and directives coming from the administration undermines its own objectives and priorities," wrote the group, which represents more than 250,000 federal managers. The letter added that the coalition's members will "bear the brunt of challenges" to those policies and noted some are now spending a large portion of their work days performing clerical duties.  

The group said members were particularly concerned over funding for COVID-19 testing, as the White House previously clarified agencies would have to rely on existing funds to set up the testing programs. Members of the managers group are not "trained nor equipped" to oversee screening protocols and should be protected by the administration when enforcing new requirements, the letter stated. Agencies are issuing inconsistent messages and policies, it added. 

“We need a clear, authoritative, singlesource message that is crystal clear and available for managers to use,” the coalition wrote. 

OMB did not respond to a request to comment. 

The managers coalition members said federal supervisors are taking demotions to avoid their new responsibilities and many employees are declining to take promotions into management. 

“We cannot continue the same failed approach of tossing vague, general guidance at agencies in the hopes they can work out the kinks,” said Bob Corsi, president of the Senior Executives Association. “This only causes disparate impacts and duplicative work. The federal government must prioritize leadership so federal managers have the tools to truly succeed and respond to the needs of employees and the public.”

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.