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Here come the vaccine mandates

·Senior Editor
·4 min read
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As the hypercontagious Delta variant of the coronavirus continues to spread across the country, more and more businesses and government agencies are pushing policy changes to mandate vaccinations against the virus.

The latest flurry of changes arrived over the past week and stretch across many aspects of American life, including everything from basic employment obligations to recreational activities like going to the gym or taking a cruise ship. 

On Monday, U.S. District Judge Kathleen Williams ruled that Norwegian Cruise Lines can defy a law signed by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and require that passengers leaving from the state show written proof of coronavirus vaccination before they board a ship starting on Aug. 15.

“We are pleased that Judge Williams saw the facts, the law and the science as we did and granted the Company's motion for preliminary injunction allowing us to operate cruises from Florida with 100% vaccinated guests and crew,” Daniel Farkas, Norwegian’s executive vice president, said in a statement. (Florida plans to appeal the decision.) 

Meanwhile, New York City announced last week that it would be the first U.S. city to require proof of vaccination for a range of activities, including indoor dining, music concerts and gyms. 

Lloyd Austin
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin. (Rolex dela Pena/Pool/AFP via Getty Images)

And in a memo released Monday, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said he would ask President Biden to approve a plan to require COVID-19 vaccination for all members of the U.S. military by mid-September. Biden indicated his support for the plan.

"I have every confidence that Service leadership and your commanders will implement this new vaccination program with professionalism, skill, and compassion," Austin said in the memo. 

Over the weekend, the head of the American Federation of Teachers said vaccination should be required for all U.S. teachers. And Dr. Anthony Fauci, the president's chief medical adviser, said Tuesday that he favors such a mandate.

“I’m going to upset people on this, but I think we should,” Fauci said during an interview with MSNBC, adding, “We are in a major surge now as we’re going into the fall, into the school season. This is very serious business.”

The Delta variant has been a key factor in this cascade of policy announcements, which has also included mask mandates in some localities and businesses. 

United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby cited the variant to explain his company’s decision to require employees to get vaccinated. 

“The tipping point for me was seeing the statistics that 97 percent of the people in the hospital are unvaccinated and over 99 percent of the deaths are among the unvaccinated,” Kirby said in an interview with NBC News. 

Over the past two weeks, new cases of COVID-19 are up 118 percent in the United States, especially among those who had not been vaccinated prior to being infected. Deaths from the disease are up 101 percent and now top 500 per day. While thousands of so-called breakthrough infections have been reported in people already vaccinated, the percentage of those hospitalized or killed is dramatically reduced among vaccinated people. 

Anthony Fauci
Dr. Anthony Fauci testifying before a Senate committee in July. (J. Scott Applewhite/Pool/Getty Images)

With hospitals in some states reaching capacity thanks to the Delta variant, however, the pace of vaccination has ticked back up. 

Across the country, concert venues, universities and private companies from Disney to Walmart have rolled out policies mandating vaccines. The number is expected to grow dramatically when the Food and Drug Administration gives full approval to the COVID-19 vaccines currently being administered after receiving emergency use authorization. 

“I hope — I don’t predict — I hope that it will be within the next few weeks. I hope it’s within the month of August,” Fauci said over the weekend. “If that’s the case, you’re going to see the empowerment of local enterprises, giving mandates that could be colleges, universities, places of business, a whole variety, and I strongly support that. The time has come. ... We’ve got to go the extra step to get people vaccinated.”

Yet not all companies are preparing to join the ranks of those requiring vaccination, meaning that a patchwork of policies and requirements is likely to continue over the coming months. 

Cover photo: Mary Altaffer/Reuters

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