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Amtrak says employees must be vaccinated or submit to weekly virus testing

Announcement comes amid a rise in coronavirus cases fueled by the more transmissible delta variant

A passenger exits the Amtrak Vermonter passenger train after it arrived at the Montpelier station, in Berlin, Vt., last month. (Wilson Ring/AP)

The nation’s passenger railroad will require employees to be vaccinated against the coronavirus or submit to weekly testing, Amtrak announced Wednesday.

The company’s mandate will apply to its more than 18,000 employees.

“Because vaccines are the best way to protect ourselves, our families, and our customers, we have made some important decisions regarding Amtrak vaccination requirements,” William Flynn, Amtrak’s chief executive, wrote in a memo. “Many employees have shared reasons why they are apprehensive about getting the COVID-19 vaccine. We understand these concerns and encourage everyone to consult with a medical professional and seek out facts from reputable sources.”

Amtrak’s announcement comes amid a rise in coronavirus cases fueled by the more transmissible delta variant. The spike spurred the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to reverse recommendations on mask-wearing and advise that vaccinated people wear masks in indoor public settings in areas with high transmission.

Several major U.S. companies, including Google, Facebook and Walt Disney, have announced requirements for employees to be vaccinated.

In transportation, United Airlines announced last week a vaccine mandate, becoming the first domestic airline to require the vaccine to its employees. Frontier Airlines followed with a policy for employees to be fully vaccinated by Oct. 1, and establishing that those who don’t get the vaccine will be required to provide negative coronavirus test results on a regular basis.

United Airlines becomes first carrier to mandate vaccine for U.S.-based employees

New York announced last week that employees of the state-run Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which operates the New York subway, and the Port Authority will be required to be vaccinated starting Labor Day.

Under Amtrak’s policy, employees will be required to show proof of vaccination as of Nov. 1. Amtrak said employees who don’t provide documentation of full vaccination by that deadline will be required to submit a negative coronavirus test result weekly.

Amtrak’s new hires will need to show proof they are fully vaccinated before their first day of employment, starting Oct. 4.

“COVID-19 vaccines are safe, effective and lifesaving. They are proving effective against the current surge of variants, especially at preventing severe disease, hospitalization and death,” Flynn said. “Vaccines are a critical tool to bring the pandemic under control.”