RICHMOND, Va. (AP) \u2014 Democrat Terry McAuliffe urged all Virginia employers on Monday to require the COVID-19 vaccine for their workers who are eligible, sharpening a policy debate in the closely watched governor's race over how best to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.\r\n\r\nMcAuliffe's call followed a decision by federal regulators\u00a0<a href="https:\/\/apnews.com\/article\/coronavirus-vaccine-pfizer-approval-1361ff61d06b815652a08a7cc0683a72">to give full approval<\/a>\u00a0to Pfizer\u2019s COVID-19 vaccine and marked an escalation of his advocacy for obligatory vaccines as a condition of employment. The former governor now seeking a second term has previously urged Virginia health systems and school divisions to issue mandates, and required\u00a0<a href="https:\/\/terrymcauliffe.com\/terry-for-virginia-announces-covid-19-vaccine-required-for-all-campaign-staff\/">his own campaign staff\u00a0<\/a>to be fully vaccinated.\r\n\r\n\u201cI have long said that the best way to defeat this deadly virus, keep our students in school and keep Virginia\u2019s economy strong is by getting every eligible Virginian vaccinated as quickly as possible,\u201d McAuliffe said in a statement.\r\n\r\nMcAuliffe is facing Republican Glenn Youngkin, a former business executive and political newcomer, in the November general election. Youngkin, who is vaccinated, has consistently urged Virginians to get the shot but has said he opposes vaccine or mask mandates.\r\n\r\nAt a campaign event last week in southwest Virginia, the former co-CEO of the\u00a0<a href="https:\/\/apnews.com\/article\/business-government-and-politics-acf69af841f7752a3b08726d1f9feda5">Carlyle Group<\/a>\u00a0was asked about his approach to managing the pandemic, at a time when the contagious delta variant is driving up new cases and hospitalizations.\r\n\r\n\u201cFirst of all, we pray it\u2019s behind us every day,\u201d Youngkin responded. \u201cMy expectation is, this virus is tough. And so first thing that I would ask everybody to do is get the vaccine."\r\n\r\nHe said in a statement Monday that McAuliffe's announcement was an attempt to \u201cbully\u201d Virginians and businesses into compliance and a step that will \u201cclearly evolve into closing down businesses and locking down Virginia again.\u201d\r\n\r\nBoth candidates' have become increasingly focused on the pandemic this month, each launching recent ads dealing with the subject.\r\n\r\nIn one ad released last week, Youngkin spoke on camera, saying that data clearly show that COVID-19 vaccines save lives.\r\n\r\n\u201cIt\u2019s your right to make your own choice, and I respect that. I do hope you\u2019ll choose to join me in getting the vaccine,\u201d he said in the ad.\r\n\r\n<a href="https:\/\/www.youtube.com\/watch?v=tEUYGqewUxE&ab_channel=TerryMcAuliffe">A McAuliffe ad<\/a>, meanwhile, went after Youngkin for supportive comments he made about the leadership of Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, a state that\u00a0<a href="https:\/\/apnews.com\/article\/joe-biden-health-religion-florida-coronavirus-pandemic-2017cf4ba966eee13208d24896d62052">has recently accounted for<\/a>\u00a0about one in five COVID patients hospitalized nationwide.\r\n\r\nBob Holsworth, a longtime analyst of Virginia politics, said McAuliffe\u2019s announcement Monday draws a \u201cbright line\u201d between the Democrat and Youngkin that will become a distinguishing feature of the campaign moving forward.\r\n\r\n\u201cVirginia will become a test case of the politics of employer mandates,\u201d he said.\r\n\r\nRecent\u00a0<a href="https:\/\/apnorc.org\/topics\/covid-19\/">polling\u00a0<\/a>conducted by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found majorities support certain measures intended to slow the spread of the virus, including\u00a0<a href="https:\/\/apnews.com\/article\/lifestyle-health-education-coronavirus-pandemic-only-on-ap-0440d83602da918c571d506a3de9f44b">school mask mandates<\/a>\u00a0and\u00a0<a href="https:\/\/apnews.com\/article\/lifestyle-business-health-travel-coronavirus-pandemic-27bf20514cd3da917c54bf71a41f2e8e">vaccine mandates<\/a>\u00a0for certain workers and activities.\r\n\r\nThe Food and Drug Administration's full approval of the vaccine came Monday after more than 200 million Pfizer doses already have been administered in the U.S. \u2014 and hundreds of millions more worldwide \u2014 since emergency use began in December. The FDA\u00a0<a href="https:\/\/apnews.com\/article\/coronavirus-vaccine-pfizer-approval-1361ff61d06b815652a08a7cc0683a72">has never before had so much evidence<\/a>\u00a0to judge a shot\u2019s safety.\r\n\r\nThe Pentagon\u00a0<a href="https:\/\/apnews.com\/article\/business-health-coronavirus-pandemic-e08a6e68308b27ad7653ca9210d953dc">immediately announced<\/a>\u00a0it would require members of the military to get vaccinated as the U.S., and the FDA's action was expected to open the door to\u00a0<a href="https:\/\/apnews.com\/article\/health-education-coronavirus-pandemic-676f2a2c63b4136360f8ea3682f48287">other new mandates.<\/a>\r\n\r\nDemocratic Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, who is term-limited,\u00a0<a href="https:\/\/apnews.com\/article\/joe-biden-health-education-coronavirus-pandemic-4907e80e7206c484c200ddb99af89fb0">announced\u00a0<\/a>earlier this month that state workers will have to be vaccinated or face regular testing for COVID-19 starting Sept. 1.\r\n\r\nVirginia recorded about 345 new cases per 100,000 people over the past two weeks, ranking 33rd in the country for new cases per capita, according to an AP analysis of data from Johns Hopkins University. One in every 524 people in the commonwealth tested positive in the past week.\r\n\r\nAbout 56.3% of the population is fully vaccinated, according to that data.