California and New York City announced Monday that they would require all government employees to get the coronavirus vaccine or face weekly COVID-19 testing, and the Department of Veterans Affairs became the first major federal agency to require health care workers to receive the shot.
Meanwhile, in a possible sign that increasingly dire health warnings are getting through to more Americans, vaccination rates began to creep up again, offering hope that the nation could yet break free of the coronavirus if people who have been reluctant to receive the shot are finally inoculated.
The announcements are the “opening of the floodgates” as more government entities and companies impose vaccine mandates after nationwide vaccination efforts “hit a wall,” said Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of Brown University’s School of Public Health.
“Some people find mask mandates annoying, but the reality is they’re temporary. We can’t do them forever,” he said. “Vaccine mandates have to be one of the major paths moving forward because they get us closer to the finish line. Mask mandates just buy you a little more time.”
In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that all municipal workers — including teachers and police officers — will be required to get vaccinated by mid-September or face weekly COVID-19 testing, making the city one of the largest employers in the U.S. to take such action.
California said it will similarly require proof of vaccination or weekly testing for all state workers and millions of public- and private-sector health care employees starting next month.
The Department of Veterans Affairs’ move came on a day when nearly 60 leading medical and health care organizations issued a call through the American Medical Association for health care facilities to require their workers to get vaccinated.
It was unclear what would happen to employees who refuse to comply. Some of the unions representing New York municipal workers said the city could not impose the requirement without negotiations.
The long-standing policy in the health care industry is for staff to stay up-to-date with vaccinations, such as annual flu shots, but a general rule also allows exceptions for medical reasons, such as allergies.