Amtrak will revise its vaccine mandate for workers, reverting to its previous requirement that allows employees who are not vaccinated to get tested. Additionally, the rail company no longer expects service cuts in January as previously expected.
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"Recently a federal district court decision halted the enforcement of the Executive Order for federal contractors. This caused the company to reevaluate our policy and to address the uncertainty about the federal requirements that apply to Amtrak," Chief Executive Bill Flynn said in a memo to employees on Tuesday.
The rail company's revised rules will be in effect as the executive order requiring federal contract workers to get vaccinated remains on pause. The order has been stalled as the legal fight over whether President Joe Biden exceeded his authority with the mandate continues.
Last week, Amtrak told Congress it would likely have to cut some of its services in part due to the vaccine rules, estimating almost 5% of its workforce was not vaccinated. The company estimates 95.7% of its employees are either fully vaccinated or "have an accommodation." In August, the company had about a 50% vaccination rate, according to Flynn. There are fewer than 500 employees who are currently not vaccinated.
Breaking: @Amtrak suspends vaccine mandate and no longer expects to have to cut some service in January pic.twitter.com/zBbj6QXjBg— davidshepardson (@davidshepardson) December 14, 2021
"We anticipate that between now and Jan. 4, we will get even closer to a 100% vaccination rate, which remains our goal and our policy," Flynn said. "This high rate of compliance makes us a leader in employee vaccination rates."
He added that after a review of service system plans after these changes, "we do not anticipate having system-wide service impacts in January."
White House press secretary Jen Psaki addressed Amtrack's decision during a White House press briefing Tuesday. She said the Biden administration has encouraged companies to require vaccination or testing.
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Flynn said the company would continue to update its vaccine policy as needed, calling the most recent changes "prudent" considering the court ruling and the coronavirus pandemic.
"For those not yet vaccinated, please consider doing so, as our nation braces for a possible new wave of infection resulting from the Omicron variant of COVID-19," he told employees.