The vaccine mandate ‘tipping point’: These entities are requiring vaccines as the Delta variant spreads

Vaccine
A man holds his vaccination reminder card after having received his first shot. Wilfredo Lee/AP
  • On Monday, city, state, and federal agencies began to announce vaccine mandates.
  • California, New York City, and the US Dept. of Veteran Affairs became the first government entities to do so.
  • A group representing 300 bars in San Francisco will require vax cards. More entities may follow.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

As COVID-19 cases rise again across the US and the Delta variant spreads, federal agencies, states, and cities – as well as private entities – are starting to implement vaccine mandates.

Last week, the US reported an average of 50,000 COVID-19 cases a day, and on Friday, there were more than 81,000 new cases, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data analyzed by The New York Times. The average case rate is the highest it has been since early May, according to the analysis.

The rise in cases has created what CDC director Rochelle Walensky recently called a “pandemic of the unvaccinated” with unvaccinated patients accounting for the vast majority of COVID-19 hospitalizations across the US.

At the same time, the vaccination rate has lagged in the US, and as of Sunday, 69% of American adults had received at least one vaccination, according to the CDC, falling short of the Biden administration’s goal of hitting 70% before July 4.

Given this reality, the imposition of vaccine mandates may add a degree of pressure to other agencies to follow suit.

“Talk about hitting a tipping point,” Dr. Bob Wachter, the chair of UC San Francisco Department of Medicine, tweeted following the string of announcements.

“As each organization and industry finds the courage to mandate or strongly incentivize vaccination, it makes it that much easier for the next one to do so. Until all the pressure is on leaders who have NOT done it,” Wachter added.

Similarly, months into the vaccine rollout, some agencies and leaders have taken the stance that there will be no safe return to normal without even more vaccinations.

California

California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced on Monday that the Golden State will soon require state employees and all healthcare workers to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination, or undergo weekly COVID-19 tests.

“Too many people have chosen to live with this virus,” Newsom said during a press briefing. The mandate will go into effect next month.

“We’re at a point in this epidemic, this pandemic, where individuals’ choice not to get vaccinated is now impacting the rest of us in a profound and devastating and deadly way,” Newsom said, making an analogy to how people are not allowed to drink and drive.

According to the Associated Press, the mandate will apply to 246,000 state employees in California, and at least 2 million healthcare workers in both the public and private sectors.

New York City

In a similar vein, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that a vaccine mandate would soon take effect for all city workers.

De Blasio said at a press conference that all city workers needed to be vaccinated by September 13 or undergo weekly testing for COVID-19. The mayor called September the “pivot point of recovery.”

In New York City, that requirement will affect close to 340,000 municipal workers, teachers, firefighters, and NYPD officers. Workers in high-risk health and hospital setting will have until August 16 to get vaccinated.

The US Department of Veteran Affairs

The US Department of Veterans Affairs on Monday became the first federal agency to require healthcare employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 within the next two months.

“Whenever a Veteran or VA employee sets foot in a VA facility, they deserve to know that we have done everything in our power to protect them from COVID-19,” Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough announced in a written statement. “With this mandate, we can once again make – and keep – that fundamental promise.”

Doctors, nurses, and dentists who work with the VA will be required to show proof of vaccination in the coming months.

After recent VA staff outbreaks resulted in the deaths of four employees, the agency moved to implement the new policy. At least 70% of workers in VA centers are vaccinated.

Private businesses

Some private businesses also announced vaccine mandates for patrons on Monday.

The San Francisco Bar Alliance, a group representing 300 bars in San Francisco, announced Monday that customers who wish to enter inside their bars will need to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test administered within 72 hours of entry.

“Effective Thursday, July 29, it will be the official position of the SF Bar Owner Alliance that any customer who wishes to remain inside our establishments show proof of vaccination or a 72-hour negative COVID-19 test,” the group’s statement said. “Guests without these verifications are welcome to sit outside in parklets or other spaces we offer.”

Bars in other cities around the US, like Los Angeles, are announcing similar policies.

We will continue to update this list as needed.