Fearing a severe manpower shortage, Amtrak is rescinding a vaccination mandate for all employees.

President Joe Biden had mandated that all federal employees and contractors has to be fully vaccinated as a condition of employment. A judge, however, has temporarily halted that mandate as the matter is litigated in federal court.

Amtrak CEO Bill Flynn told a House subcommittee fewer than 5% of railroad employees are un-vaccinated, but that was enough to cause serious service disruptions.

For now, Amtrak will allow employees who refuse to get vaccinated to take a weekly COVID test.

If they refuse the testing and vaccination, employees will be placed on unpaid leave and could ultimately be fired.

In a memo to employees, Amtrak warned the suspension of the vaccination mandate was temporary, and urged workers to continue to get inoculated against COVID.

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. - Memo to Amtrak employees

Even though fewer than 500 Amtrak employees are believed to be un-vaccinated, Flynn warned it was enough to impact service.

Flynn warned on Dec. 9 that Long Distance services faced the biggest challenge because of relatively small crew bases. "At some of these crew bases across our network," Flynn said, "We have a relatively high percentage of unvaccinated employees.”

Flynn did not say which specific routes would be effected, but several Long Distance routes run through New Jersey and New York.

Now, provided these employees submit to testing, Flynn says, "We do not anticipate having system-wide service impacts in January."

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