Public and private sector vaccine mandates are gaining traction amid the nationwide surge in COVID-19 infections, which is largely due to the spread of the delta variant of the virus among the unvaccinated.
After months spent trying to persuade and cajole the reluctant into winning million-dollar lotteries, free beer, or even vaccinated college scholarships, local governments, businesses, and universities are now looking to force the problem.
This week, New York City became the first city to require proof of at least one dose of vaccine for anyone wishing to participate in indoor activities, such as dining at restaurants, exercising at gyms, and attending theater performances. .
The Mayor’s Policy Bill de BlasioBill de BlasioBars, restaurants move to impose vaccination mandates Group of 10 DC theaters to require vaccinations to enter Los Angeles considering requiring coronavirus vaccinations for indoor activities MORE (D) came just one day after he ordered all city employees and contractors to be vaccinated or face weekly tests and other restrictions.
Maryland and Virginia announced Thursday that vaccinations will soon be mandatory for any state worker who does not want to undergo regular testing, while California will require all healthcare employees to be fully vaccinated by Sept. 30 without the option to report weekly. virus tests instead.
The Biden administration, which does not have the power to enact a national mandate, has enthusiastically embraced the measures after months of encouraging the guidelines.
“Our message is quite simple. We support these vaccination requirements to protect workers, communities and the country,” said the White House coronavirus response coordinator. Jeff ZientsJeff Zients15 States Keep COVID-19 Cases Secret White House Says Half of Total U.S. Population Is Fully Vaccinated Former Trump Surgeon General Says Politicians Are ‘Removing Tools’ From Offices Of public health MORE he said Thursday.
The administration is also moving forward with its own requirement that federal workers must attest to their vaccination status, under penalty of law. Those who are not fully vaccinated will be subject to mandatory mask wear and social distancing requirements, and will not be eligible for official travel.
Health experts hope the mandates represent a turning point in the nation’s fight against coronavirus.
New infections have skyrocketed; According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the United States averaged nearly 90,000 new cases a day over the past week.
Vaccines are the way out, and experts say that sometimes the stick is more effective than the carrot.
“I have worked in public health for three decades. I have never seen the kind of sweeping mandates in the city, the state, and the private sector that we are seeing today,” said Lawrence Gostin, professor of global health law at the Law Center of Georgetown University. “Not for smallpox, not for polio, not for influenza. So this is unprecedented, and if there is a snowball effect, as I hope there is, it could really get us very close to where we need to be to go back to a more normal life. “
But Gostin and other experts warn that the administration’s long-standing hands-off approach could complicate the effort.
Previously, federal officials have been reluctant to get involved with an issue like vaccine requirements and have yet to provide any guidance or support to companies wanting to require proof of vaccination for customers or employees.
The result is likely to be an inconsistent checkerboard of verification methods.
New York has two different electronic verification methods, along with the paper card provided by the CDC. Individual colleges and universities have developed their own systems. The federal government is using an online “vaccination certificate,” and some restaurants in Washington, DC are now asking to see customers’ physical vaccination cards.
In the corporate world, United Airlines said Friday that it would require all U.S.-based employees to be vaccinated and provide proof of their vaccination, becoming the first national airline to do so.
Hospital systems and long-term care facilities are also implementing mandates, including the Mayo Clinic and Kaiser Permanente, and tech companies like Facebook and Google will require that employees get vaccinated before returning to the office.
When asked during a press conference if there would be any technical support for small businesses, the Surgeon General Vivek MurthyVivek Murthy The Hill’s Morning Report – Presented by Facebook – McConnell Plays a ‘Long Game’ with Government Funding, Reconciliation Surgeon General: The ‘Chances Are High’ Vaccine for Children Under 12 Will Be Approved in the Next School Year Most Unvaccinated Incorrectly Believe Vaccine Poses Greater Risk Than COVID-19: MORE Survey it simply praised the efforts of the private sector.
“We know that this is not something that the federal government is leading, but we are happy to see the private sector leaning on it, taking the lead on that, and I think this is going to be increasingly important because we know that more institutions are considering the possibility. of vaccine requirements, “Murthy said.
Public support for vaccine mandates has been mixed and generally based on political lines.
“It is not surprising that people who are vaccinated are in favor of them and people who are not vaccinated are not in favor of them,” said Liz Hamel, director of public opinion and survey research at the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF). .
According to the most recent KFF survey, 68 percent of vaccinated adults and 75 percent of Democrats said the federal government should issue a vaccination mandate, while 81 percent of unvaccinated adults and 67 percent of Republicans said it shouldn’t.
Surveys also show that young adults in particular would be motivated to get vaccinated if necessary in certain cases, such as sporting events or concerts, flying on an airplane, or for international travel.
According to Kaiser, people who would get the vaccine only if it were needed primarily say they do not want or feel the need for the vaccine. They are not opposed to it, they just cannot do it unless someone forces them.
Still, employer mandates and vaccine passports can only help if they are enforced, and there is a red line from Republican governors opposing the idea.
Many Republican governors pre-emptively banned mandates and passports in any form, even from private employers.
“It’s not something I support,” the Florida governor said. Ron DeSantisRon DeSantisCNN’s Jim Acosta on the delta variant: ‘Why not call it the DeSantis variant?’ Sunday Show Preview: US Dealing With Rising COVID-19 Cases Radio Host Urges Friends To Get Vaccinated Shortly Before Dying From COVID-19 MORE (R) said Thursday when asked about hospitals that require employer vaccination.
There are also likely to be legal challenges, although both the Justice Department and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission have ruled that companies can legally require workers to get vaccinated against COVID-19 as a condition of arriving at the workplace. job.
Last month, a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit against Houston Methodist Hospital filed by a group of employees, ruling that making vaccines a condition of employment was not coercion.
A student attorney suing Indiana University asked the Supreme Court on Friday to block the school’s immunization requirement for students, after a series of lower courts ruled in favor of the school, including a panel of Appeals from Republican-appointed judges.