The US has reached a turning point in the pandemic, with businesses, state governments, and even a federal government agency now backing mandatory coronavirus vaccinations for employees. How'd we get here?
- A 'groundswell': "With vaccination rates stagnating and the delta variant driving yet another wave of cases, there's been a new groundswell of support for such requirements," per Axios, which describes Monday as a turning point for the country.
- The medical community's call: It began with more than 50 medical groups urging mandatory vaccinations of all US health care workers, per the Washington Post. The group, including the American College of Physicians, added its hope that "all other employers across the country will follow our lead."
- Hospitals and universities: Hospitals across the country, including the Mayo Clinic, later said they would mandate staff vaccinations. Fewer than 9% had that requirement last Thursday, per the Post. More than 400 colleges and universities are also requiring vaccinations for students, though "almost all are in states that voted for President Biden," per the New York Times.
- VA steps up: The Department of Veterans Affairs became the first federal agency to require vaccinations for health care personnel in Veterans Health Administration facilities, about 100,000 people, within eight weeks. It noted four unvaccinated employees died recently during a COVID-19 outbreak at a VA training center, per the Post.
- California moves: The state announced that its 2.2 million state employees and health care workers would be required to show proof of vaccination or undergo regular testing, starting in August. An alliance representing 500 bars in San Francisco also said it would require customers indoors to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test, per the Post.
- 'Tipping point': "We're at a point in this epidemic, this pandemic, where choice, individuals' choice not to get vaccinated, is now impacting the rest of us, in a profound and devastating and deadly way," said California Gov. Gavin Newsom, per the Hill. "You can call it a tipping point," added Health and Human Services Secretary Mark Ghaly, per the Post, citing "projections with delta."
- NYC requirements: Already requiring vaccinations for health care workers, New York City expanded that framework to include all 45,000 municipal workers, including teachers and police officers, per Axios and the Post. There was some backlash, as Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, said "vaccinations must be negotiated ... not coerced."
- Backlash less of a worry: The moves follow months of hesitation, driven by threats of resignations and lawsuits. Some experts "warn that punitive measures and social ostracism can backfire, shutting down dialogue and outreach efforts," per the Times. But companies and governments appear more willing to face retaliation now that the vaccination rate has "slowed significantly," per the Hill.
- Vaccine vs. virus: About 49.1% of the US population is fully vaccinated, while 56.8% have received one dose, according to Bloomberg's tally. It describes "a life-and-death contest between vaccine and virus" as the delta variant drives an uptick in new cases and hospitalizations, largely among the unvaccinated. COVID-19 cases have quadrupled nationwide this month to 54,000 daily, per the Post.
- An exhausted industry: Ernest Grant, president of the American Nurses Association, among the groups urging mandatory vaccinations for health care workers, says he's hearing "on a daily basis from nurses across the country that are saying, 'I just reached my limit, I'm exhausted,'" per the Post. "It is very frustrating when you know there are vaccines out there that are effective and can drive down the spread," he adds.
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