Hardball: De Blasio tells NYC city employees that they need to get vaccinated (or take a weekly test); Update: California too

Daily cases from a hyper-contagious variant are rising, daily vaccinations are falling, and so the age of patient persuasion is over.

The age of vaccine mandates has begun.

If America’s biggest city is willing to strong-arm its workers this way, it’s a cinch that other blue urban hubs will soon follow. I’m curious to see how red-state governors greet the trend, though. Will Ron DeSantis allow Florida cities to force public-school teachers to get vaxxed or will he go to bat for the right of unvaccinated educators to risk infecting their unvaccinated students?

There are some 340,000 city workers in New York, from teachers to firefighters to cops to clerks of all stripes. A disgracefully large number of them are unvaccinated:

Just 43 percent of the NYPD, which interacts with the public all day long, is vaccinated. Imagine needing a cop to come to your home due to an emergency and having him infect you with COVID because he couldn’t bother taking a free, potentially lifesaving public-health precaution.

The choice being offered to NYC employees strikes me as strange, though. If you want to mandate vaccination, mandate it; don’t give people an option where they can get tested weekly instead. Not only is that alternative not very onerous for a vaccine skeptic, it also won’t be foolproof. There’ll be some false negatives. In other cases, you might test negative on Monday morning, get infected on Monday afternoon, and spread Delta to everyone around you by the end of the week, before your next test. Daily testing would make more sense.

Maybe de Blasio felt obliged to offer a testing option for now since the vaccine still hasn’t been fully approved by the FDA. (That’ll change within the next month or two.) Or maybe he was forced to make an accommodation by our good friends at the public-employee unions. “While we encourage everyone to get vaccinated and support measures to ensure our members’ health and wellbeing, weekly testing is clearly subject to mandatory bargaining,” said one local union chief in response to this morning’s announcement. “New York City is a union town and that cannot be ignored.” Collective labor will continue to bring its considerable bargaining to bear on behalf of COVID.

De Blasio used this morning’s presser announcing the new quasi-mandate to urge businesses to follow his lead: “My message to the private sector is: Go as far as you can go right now. I would strongly urge a vaccination mandate whenever possible, or as close to it as possible.” A few hours before he said that, a huge alliance of medical professionals put out a statement stressing the same point to their industry:

Medical groups representing millions of doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other health workers on Monday called for mandatory vaccinations of all U.S. health personnel against the coronavirus, framing the move as a moral imperative as new infections mount sharply.

“We call for all health care and long-term care employers to require their employees to be vaccinated against covid-19,” the American Medical Association, the American Nurses Association and 55 other groups wrote in a joint statement shared with The Washington Post. “The health and safety of U.S. workers, families, communities, and the nation depends on it.”…

More than 38 percent of nursing workers were not fully vaccinated as of July 11, despite caring for patients at elevated risk of the coronavirus, according to data collected by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and analyzed by LeadingAge, which represents nonprofit nursing homes and other providers of elder care.

It’s abject insanity that so many unvaccinated health workers are routinely tending to at-risk patients like the elderly and the immunocompromised. Yet, per WaPo, less than nine percent of hospitals have imposed a vaccination mandate on employees. The Houston health system that imposed a mandate and then won in court over employees who resisted has since seen 97 percent compliance among workers who didn’t quit. Employer mandates will meaningfully move the needle towards herd immunity.

As will the scare that some vaccine holdouts have gotten from the daily news about the new variant, of course:

It’s worth noting that, while Americans disagree on whether routine businesses should require employees to get vaxxed as a condition of returning to work, there’s more consensus when it comes to health-care workers and teachers. Seventy percent of people with school-aged children, including 56 percent of Republicans, thought public-school teachers should have to be vaccinated according to a poll taken in late June. Sixty-six percent of the public said in the same poll that workers at health-care institutions should also be under a mandate. Fifty-nine percent of Republicans agreed. I’m guessing the numbers have only gone up since the emergence of Delta here in the U.S., especially now that hospitals in hard-hit counties are filling up again and parents contemplate sending their kids back into class this fall. Time for local leaders to play hardball with teachers and nurses. Right, Gov. DeSantis?

Here’s Joe Scarborough anticipating the next phase of the mandate push, having Joe Biden lean on teachers to get vaccinated. “The president of the United States needs to say, ‘if you are a public school teacher or you teach at a public university, as a condition of your job you have to get vaccinated,'” he says. Does Biden have the stones to say that to Randi Weingarten?

Update: It’s a dam break. The VA became the first federal agency to mandate vaccination for front-line workers this morning (115,000 of them) and now America’s biggest state has followed suit.

California will require state employees and all health care workers to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination or get tested weekly as officials aim to slow rising coronavirus infections, mostly among the unvaccinated.

The new rule will take effect next month, officials announced Monday. There are at least 238,000 state employees, according to the California controller’s office. Health officials couldn’t immediately provide an estimate on size of the health care workforce in the nation’s most populated state.

They hedged too by offering weekly testing as an alternative. Hmmm.