Here come the vaccine mandates


As the hypertransmissible Delta variant of the coronavirus continues to spread across the country, more and more businesses and governments and pushing policy changes to mandate vaccinations against the virus.

The latest flurry of changes have come in a burst over the past week, and stretch across aspects of American life, including everything from basic employment obligations to recreational activities like going to the gym or departing on a cruise. 

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 S. Farkas, the cruise company’s executive vice president, said in a statement. (Florida plans to appeal the decision.) 

Meanwhile, New York City just 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. 

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin holds a press conference with Philippines Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on July 30, 2021. (Photo by 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 that vaccination should be required for all U.S. teachers. And. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the president’s chief medical adviser, said Tuesday that he favored such a mandate.

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“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. 

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. 

Dr. Anthony Fauci testifies before the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, July 20, 2021 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. (Photo by 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 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 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.”

Cover photo: Mary Altaffer/REUTERS

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