Coronavirus Briefing: What Happened Today
The workplace mandate gap.,
Coronavirus Briefing: What Happened Today
The workplace mandate gap.
This is the Coronavirus Briefing, an informed guide to the pandemic. Sign up here to get this newsletter in your inbox.
Credit…The New York Times
Coronavirus infections from the Delta variant and cases of a seasonal flulike illness are rising among children.
Demand for shots is increasing in less-vaccinated states under siege from the Delta variant.
Germany plans to offer vaccine booster shots to vulnerable people starting in September.
Rise of the workplace mandate
As the highly contagious Delta variant drives up cases across the country, more companies are announcing vaccine mandates for workers, including Disney, Walmart, Google and The New York Times.
“We’re definitely seeing that the tide is, in fact, turning,” said Lauren Hirsch, who covers business for The Times and our sister DealBook newsletter. “The big question right now is: What kind of workers will the mandates trickle down to?”
So far, with the exception of the health care industry, corporate vaccine mandates tend to cover white-collar workers, not the lower-income workers on the front lines who are less likely to be vaccinated.
Walmart, for example, recently announced a new vaccine mandate, but it doesn’t cover workers at stores and warehouses. Instead, the retailer announced mandatory inoculation for the 17,000 employees at its headquarters and for managers who travel domestically — a small fraction of its 1.6 million-person work force.
Some service-industry companies are afraid that the mandates will drive away workers at a time when they’re already in short supply, especially in sectors like retail and restaurants.
“There’s overlap between the demographic of those workers and those who tend to be unvaccinated,” Lauren said.
Unions, which are mixed on the issue, are another complicating factor. The union representing pilots, for example, recently agreed with United Airlines that vaccines would not be mandated, while a deal reached by Hollywood’s major unions will allow studios to require everyone on a production set to be vaccinated.
Experts warn that if companies adopt partial mandates, like Walmart has, it could exacerbate inequalities, leaving behind people who have lower incomes and are less likely to be insured.
The next big question, Lauren said, is whether companies will impose mandates on segments of their work force that have lower vaccination rates.
“Companies have been tracking how much of their work force is vaccinated,” Lauren said. “So it’s easier if your employees are already 80 or 90 percent vaccinated. It’s less easy at 50 percent. If they’re afraid they could lose half of their work force with a mandate, then it’s a completely different calculus.”
Covax is struggling
The multibillion-dollar alliance of international health systems and nonprofits was supposed to ensure that poor countries received vaccines as quickly as rich ones did. Instead, Covax struggled in its attempts to secure doses, falling half a billion short of its target, and is now failing to deliver the vaccine.
Chad received 100,000 doses in June, but five weeks later, some 94,000 doses remain. Nearby in Benin, only 267 shots were being given each day — a pace so slow that 110,000 of the program’s AstraZeneca doses expired.
The shortfalls are leaving poor countries dangerously unprotected as the Delta variant of the virus runs rampant. And without billions more shots, experts warn, new variants could keep emerging across the globe.
“Covax hasn’t failed, but it is failing,” said Dr. Ayoade Alakija, a co-chair of the African Union’s vaccine delivery program. “We really have no other options. For the sake of humanity, Covax must work.”
The U.S. is wasting vaccine doses, even as other countries suffer shortages.
In France, demonstrations against the country’s vaccine requirements surged for a third straight weekend.
Canada fined two travelers nearly $20,000 each for providing false vaccination documents.
Governor Andrew Cuomo says New York City transit workers must be vaccinated or face regular testing.
What else we’re following
Mayor Bill de Blasio urged vaccinated New Yorkers to wear masks indoors, but balked at a mandate.
The Republican governors of South Carolina and Ohio both said they would not renew public health mandates like mask-wearing and social distancing, even as their states continue to battle a raging pandemic.
Senator Lindsey Graham said he has a breakthrough Covid infection.
Home Depot, SoulCycle and other businesses tightened pandemic restrictions.
Dr. Anthony Fauci predicted cases would rise, but said lockdowns were unlikely.
Thailand is extending strict coronavirus measures to more regions of the country.
Provincetown, Mass., thought it was safe to return to prepandemic partying. It wasn’t.
What you’re doing
We left New York City during the pandemic, advancing a move to the suburbs. Meeting new people has been hard. I’ve become friendly with a woman across the street who also has two children, and we decided to go to dinner recently, just the two of us. I can count on one hand how many times I’ve been inside a restaurant to sit and eat post Covid, and all have occurred after being vaccinated. The dinner felt exciting, fun and so lovely and normal. Two hours in, she revealed she was unvaccinated, due to fear of side effects. I’d had enough to drink that I didn’t trust myself to respond in the moment, so I downplayed my reaction. We have a newborn. She knows this fact and still didn’t let me know ahead of time that she hadn’t been vaccinated. Since the dinner, my anger has grown, along with my disappointment. It feels melodramatic, but I can’t be close friends with her. Back to square one.
— Anne, Connecticut
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