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California, NYC to require employees to get COVID-19 vaccine

A child near the vaccination site at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn.
Image Credit: NYT

California and New York announced on Monday that they will require all government employees to be vaccinated against the coronavirus or tested weekly for COVID-19, and the Department of Veterans Affairs became the first major federal agency to require health workers to be vaccinated.

Meanwhile, as a possible sign that increasingly dire health warnings are reaching more Americans, vaccination rates have begun to rise again, raising hope that the nation can still break out of the coronavirus if people who were reluctant to the vaccine is finally vaccinated.

These announcements are “floodgates for water,” as more governments and companies enact vaccination requirements after nationwide vaccination efforts “hit the wall,” said Dr. Ashish Jha, Dean of the School of Public Health at Brown University.

“Some people are annoyed by the requirements for masks, but they are actually temporary. We cannot keep them forever, ”he said. “Vaccine bans should be one of the main ways forward because they bring us closer to the finish line. Mask mandates just give you a little more time. ”

In New York, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that all municipal workers, including teachers and police officers, will have to be vaccinated by mid-September or weekly tested for COVID-19, making the city one of the largest employers in the United States. take such action.

California said it will also require proof of vaccination or weekly testing for all government employees and millions of public and private sector health workers starting next month.

The VA’s action came on the day that some 60 leading healthcare organizations approached healthcare providers through the American Medical Association to demand vaccinations from their workers.

Elsewhere, St. Louis became the second major city to mandate indoor masks regardless of vaccination status, joining Los Angeles in re-enacting the orders.

“For those who are vaccinated, it might feel like a punishment for doing the right thing,” St. Louis County spokesman Sam Page, a Democrat, said Monday. “I heard it and I feel this disappointment.” ‘

President Joe Biden must “lead by example” and impose additional powers on federal workers and in public places under government jurisdiction, including airplanes, trains and federal buildings, said Dr. Leana Ven, former Baltimore health commissioner.

“We need vaccine mandates and vaccine validation,” she said. – We have long passed the time when the Biden administration got down to business. What we are doing is not working. Doing the same is not an option here. ”

The administration has so far recommended that unvaccinated people wear masks indoors, but over the weekend, senior officials said they were considering recommending that vaccinated people wear masks indoors as well.

“We’re going in the wrong direction,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, a leading national expert on infectious diseases, told CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday.

Wen, who is also an emergency doctor and professor at George Washington University, said public health experts have been worried about this very scenario for months.

“We were worried that the honor system would not work, the unvaccinated would act like they were vaccinated, and people would think the pandemic was over,” she said. “That’s exactly what happened, and it’s incredibly frustrating.”

The US shouldn’t have been caught off guard after the delta variant devastated India in May and then landed forcefully in the United Kingdom, Israel and other highly vaccinated countries last month, the doctor added. Albert Coe is an Infectious Disease Specialist at the Yale School of Public Health.

“We’ve learned many times not to take anything for granted with COVID,” he said.

Jha said Americans must prepare for several more difficult months of COVID, which has already claimed nearly 611,000 US lives.

“I really thought it was going to be a fabulous summer, but I underestimated the coming disinformation campaign,” he said on Monday. “What were the chances that after more than half a million Americans died, this third of the country would still not want to end the pandemic? “

Vaccinations increased over the weekend, according to the CDC, with about 657,000 vaccines injected on Saturday and nearly 780,000 on Sunday. The 7-day average on Sunday was about 583,000 shots per day, up from 525,000 a week earlier.

Public health experts said Monday that the rise in vaccinations is encouraging, but warned that it is too early to say whether millions of unvaccinated people are finally surmounting their restraint.

“I wish I could say yes, but I honestly don’t know,” Ko said. “There are a lot of issues to cover.”

The United States has about 67% immunity to COVID-19 when considering previous infections, Jah said, but close to 85% is needed to suppress the resurgent virus.

“So we need a lot more vaccinations. Or a lot more infections, ”he said.

According to Johns Hopkins University, the seven-day moving average for daily new cases in the country has grown from over 19,000 on July 11 to nearly 52,000 on July 25 over the past two weeks.

Health experts said they hope prominent conservatives and Republicans who have doubted vaccination efforts for months are finally ready to help get the ball rolling.

Minority House Representatives Whip Steve Scalize and other Republicans on the GOP Docs faction held a press conference at the Capitol late last week pleading with their constituents to cast aside long-standing doubts.

Fox News anchor Sean Hannity said on his hit show: “For many Americans, it makes perfect sense to get vaccinated. I believe in science. I believe in the science of vaccinations. “

Facebook also needs to improve its work to remove disinformation on its social network, Jha said.

In addition, the FDA needs to fully approve the COVID-19 vaccines that are currently approved for emergency care. He suggested that this last step would give more companies more confidence to introduce vaccines.

“FDA approval is important,” Jha said. – At the moment it is absurd. The safety and effectiveness of these drugs is well documented. ”

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