California and New York City announced on Monday that they would require all government employees to be vaccinated for the coronavirus or have weekly COVID-19 tests, and the Department of Veterans Affairs has become the first large federal agency to require health care workers to receive the vaccine.
Meanwhile, in a possible sign that increasingly serious health warnings are reaching more Americans, vaccination rates have started to rise again, offering hope that the nation could still free itself from the coronavirus if people who hesitated to receive the vaccine are finally inoculated.
The announcements are “opening the floodgates” as more government entities and businesses impose vaccination mandates after nationwide vaccination efforts “have hit a wall,” the said. Dr Ashish Jha, Dean of the School of Public Health at Brown University.
“Some people find mask warrants boring, but the reality is they’re temporary. We can’t do them forever, ”he said. “Vaccination warrants have to be one of the main ways forward because they bring us closer to the finish line. Mask mandates save you a bit more time.
In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that all city workers – including teachers and police officers – will need to get vaccinated by mid-September or undergo weekly COVID-19 tests, making the city one of the largest employers in the United States in take such action.
California has said it will similarly require proof of vaccination or weekly testing for all state employees and millions of public and private sector health care workers starting next month.
The VA movement came a day when nearly 60 major medical and healthcare organizations appealed through the American Medical Association for healthcare facilities to require their workers to get vaccinated.
It was not clear what would happen to employees who refused to comply. Some of the unions representing New York City municipal workers said the city could not enforce the requirement without negotiations.
Long-standing policy in the healthcare industry is that staff stay up to date with vaccinations, such as annual flu shots, but a general rule of thumb also allows exceptions for medical reasons, such as allergies. .
Elsewhere, Saint-Louis became the second major city to mandate that face masks be worn indoors, regardless of immunization status, joining Los Angeles to reimpose orders.
“For those who are vaccinated, it may sound like punishment, punishment for doing the right thing,” St. Louis County Executive Sam Page, a Democrat, said Monday. “I have heard this and I feel this frustration.
President Joe Biden should “lead by example” and impose new mandates on the federal workforce and in public places where the government has jurisdiction, including on planes, trains and federal buildings, said Dr. Leana Wen, former Baltimore Health Commissioner.
“We need warrants and vaccine verifications,” she said. “We’re way over time for the Biden administration to join in on this. What we are doing is not working. Doing more of the same is not the answer here.
The administration has so far recommended that unvaccinated people continue to wear masks indoors, but senior officials said over the weekend they were considering recommend that the vaccinated also wear them indoors.
“We are headed in the wrong direction,” Dr Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, said on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday.
Wen, who is also an emergency physician and a professor at George Washington University, said public health experts have been concerned for months about the same scenario.
“We were concerned that the honor system is not working, that the unvaccinated will behave as if they are vaccinated and people will think the pandemic is over,” she said. “This is precisely what happened, and it is incredibly frustrating.”
The United States should not have been caught off guard after seeing the Delta variant ravage India in May, then forcibly land in the UK, Israel and other highly vaccinated countries last month, he said. added Dr. Albert Ko, infectious disease specialist at the Yale school. of Public Health.
“We have learned over and over again not to take anything for granted with COVID,” he said.
Jha said Americans should prepare for months of COVID, which has already claimed nearly 611,000 lives in the United States
“I really thought it would be a fabulous summer, but I underestimated the disinformation campaign to come,” he said on Monday. “What were the odds that after more than half a million Americans died, that third of the country still did not want to end the pandemic?” “
Vaccinations increased over the weekend, with about 657,000 reported vaccines given on Saturday and nearly 780,000 on Sunday, according to CDC data. The 7-day moving average on Sunday was about 583,000 vaccinations per day, up from about 525,000 the week before.
Public health experts on Monday said the rise in vaccinations was encouraging, but warned it was far too early to say whether millions of unvaccinated people were finally overcoming their reluctance.
“I wish I could say yes, but honestly I don’t know,” Ko said. “There’s a long way to go. “
The United States is about 67% immune to COVID-19 when past infections are factored in, but it will need to move closer to 85% to crush the resurgent virus, Jha said.
“So we need a lot more vaccinations. Or a lot more infections, ”he said.
The seven-day moving average of daily new cases in the country has risen over the past two weeks, from more than 19,000 on July 11 to nearly 52,000 on July 25, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
Health experts have said they hope prominent Conservative and Republican voices who have spent months questioning the vaccination effort are finally ready to help move the needle.
House Minority Whip Steve Scalise and other Republicans in the GOP Doctors Caucus held a press conference on Capitol Hill late last week to plead their constituents to put aside lingering doubts.
Fox News host Sean Hannity said on her popular show: “It makes perfect sense that many Americans get vaccinated. I believe in science. I believe in the science of vaccinations.
Facebook also needs to do a better job of removing misinformation on its social media platform, Jha said.
And the Food and Drug Administration must fully approve the COVID-19 vaccines, which currently have emergency approval. This latest step will give more companies greater confidence to impose vaccine mandates, he suggested.
“FDA approval matters a lot,” Jha said. “It’s absurd at this point. The safety and effectiveness of these drugs have been well documented.
Associated Press editors Lindsey Tanner in Three Oaks, Michigan; Alexandra Jaffe and Aamer Madhani in Washington; and Heather Hollingsworth of Mission, Kansas, contributed to this report.