Amtrak Is Choosing a Very Weird Time to Suspend Its Vaccine Mandate

The CDC has predicted as many as 1.3 million new COVID cases in the U.S. by Christmas Day

Amtrak Is Choosing a Very Weird Time to Suspend Its Vaccine Mandate

In the wake of what experts are calling a “viral blizzard” in which they anticipate millions of Americans will become infected with one of the two newer COVID-19 variants, Amtrak did away with its vaccine mandate this week.

In a letter to employees obtained by Reuters reporter David Shepardson, Amtrak CEO Bill Flynn wrote, “Recently a federal court decision halted the enforcement of the Executive Order for federal contractors. This caused the company to reevaluate our policy and to readdress the uncertainty about the federal requirements that apply to Amtrak.”

“Amtrak is announcing today that we will revert to our original vaccine mandate policy announced on August 11, which will allow, on an interim basis, for testing as an alternative to getting vaccinated,” he added.

This comes following President Biden’s executive order requiring all federal contractors to be fully vaccinated no later than November 22, and later, a federal appeals court blocking said mandate, calling it “fatally flawed.”

But as Defector‘s Albert Burneko pointed out, “Amtrak may feature the visible shabbiness and terminal impoverishment of our nation’s systematically hobbled public sector, it is strictly speaking an only quasi-public for-profit corporation, rather than an actual federal agency.”

“While Amtrak still has the authority to require vaccination as a condition of employment, its honchos no longer enjoy the privilege of shrugging and saying, ‘Hey, don’t look at me, it’s an executive order’ in the face of objections and complaints,” Burneko wrote.

According to Flynn, 95.7 percent of Amtrak’s employees are fully vaccinated and fewer than 500 have yet to receive at least one dose. That said, as Burneko points out, “fewer than 500” is not an insignificant number. Then take into account that, with more than half a million commuter customers passing through every day, New York Penn Station is the busiest rail hub in North America, and this week the number of people testing positive in New York City doubled in three days. With those people — and tens of thousands of others — jumping on trains and planes to head out to destinations all over the country for the holidays, a pretty severe wave of positive cases seems to be afoot.

At the very least, this much is true: it’s a very odd time for Amtrak to walk back their vaccine stance.


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