KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Unvaccinated federal employees must now wear masks on the job, in addition to a host of other restrictions placed on them, after President Joe Biden announced vaccination mandate Thursday.
There are more than 38,000 federal workers in Kansas City, making the U.S. government the largest employer in the metro.
Federal employees who are not fully vaccinated must now wear masks, undergo weekly testing, physical distancing from others and have restricted travel.
The goal is to increase vaccinations among millions of Americans who get a paycheck from Uncle Sam, including IRS workers and others in Kansas City.
The president also hopes to set an example so that private employers will follow his lead.
Opponents of masks and COVID-19 vaccines claim they have the right to control their bodies, but a constitutional law professor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City said that’s not the case.
“There’s really only two areas where you get some protection from things like a mask requirement, and it’s really religion and disabilities,” said Professor Allen Rostron of the UMKC Law School.
“Even private employers would be required to give reasonable accommodation if you have a genuine, for example you have a breathing disorder, a mask might not be appropriate for you and maybe you use some kind of face shield or whatever. Then religious liberty is very important. Obviously there might be accommodations for that sort of thing. Otherwise if you don’t like it don’t take the job.”
The government also can require vaccinations to protect public health.
The U.S. Supreme Court, in a case that dates back more than 100 years, said personal freedom ends when an individual makes choices that put the larger community at risk.
That case involved a man who refused to get vaccinated against smallpox, despite a state law requiring it.
Smallpox has since been eradicated from this country, largely due to mass vaccinations.