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The Editorial Board: As they can, businesses should move toward mandating vaccinations

The Editorial Board: As they can, businesses should move toward mandating vaccinations

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On Wednesday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo made the big announcement. President Biden followed up with his on Thursday. Now, lower governments, businesses, nonprofits and other entities need to follow suit and rachet up the effort to vaccinate employees – even seriously considering requiring the shots.

The country is being held hostage by the anti-vaxxers. There’s no reason to put up with it.

The country and its component parts must keep their eyes on the non-negotiable goal of defeating a virus that remains a threat largely because too many people refuse to be vaccinated. They won’t come in out of the rain.

Cuomo and Biden gave their employees a choice: Be vaccinated or face routine testing. Businesses can go further. By federal rule, they are allowed to establish rules for employment. It’s time to move toward making vaccination against a dangerous and disruptive virus one of them.

Some companies are already making the move. The Washington Post, Google and Facebook all plan to require vaccinations of employees. Google’s mandate also includes anyone coming into its offices.

Truthfully, that approach will have to be a goal with a horizon. Locally owned companies may be able to act unilaterally, while corporations spread around the country, or even the globe, may have a more complex set of circumstances to consider. And all companies are bound to feel the pressure of a tight labor market. Still, The Post, Google and Facebook are setting the pace.

It’s hard to understand what the anti-vaxxers are missing. Parts of the country are again, and unnecessarily, descending into Covid hell and yet millions refuse to take the safe and simple step that could nail its coffin shut: Get the shots.

Especially in the South, where vaccine resistance is high and temperatures are forcing people indoors, infection rates are rising dangerously. It’s the price of stubbornness, ignorance and political manipulation.

Here, conditions are worse than they were just a few weeks ago, though still much better than they were early this year. But what will happen in the fall, as cool weather sets in and Western New Yorkers, like southerners today, move indoors? Infection rates could rise again based on the prevalence of the Delta variant, which is more easily transmissible – even by vaccinated people – and more severe. More, and worse, variants remain a real possibility.

By and large, those who have been immunized are safe. A small percentage of them may become sick; like all vaccinations, the Covid shots aren’t perfect. But the risks of hospitalization and death rank somewhere between tiny and infinitesimal. That they exist at all falls mainly on the shoulders of those who refuse to be vaccinated.

It would be all right, though sad, if the resisters were threatening only themselves. But they aren’t. They are a hazard to other unvaccinated people, to individuals with compromised immune systems, to health professionals who are more frequently exposed to the virus, to hospitals that should be dealing with other serious illnesses, to businesses that now have to worry again about the willingness of customers to enter their shops.

They shouldn’t have to. The vaccine is the answer. It’s time to push harder.

It doesn’t just have to be mandates. New strategies to incentivize the unvaccinated should be part of the game plan. First and foremost, that requires the efforts of trusted people – friends, family members and other loved ones – to help the skeptics better understand the risks they are taking for themselves and inflicting on others. Those conversations need to be friendly and respectful.

But what else can be done? A popular restaurant near Sarasota, Fla., the Beach Bistro, is now requiring patrons to be vaccinated. Owners report that business is prospering. Restaurants and other service industries here should consider following suit.

Only a few weeks ago, Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz was planning to allow only vaccinated fans into Highmark Stadium. He backed off that idea, but he should reconsider.

On their own, though, the owners of arenas and stadiums should be in the business of persuading their users to be vaccinated. A lottery for free tickets might help. Governments could help fund that expense. At a minimum, vaccination clinics should be set up this fall at Highmark Stadium, home of the Buffalo Bills, and at KeyBank Center, where the Sabres hold court.

With Republicans among the most likely to resist vaccination, popular party leaders should be publicly encouraging their reluctant members to be vaccinated. Here, that includes State Senate Minority Leader Rob Ott, Sen. Patrick Gallivan, Sheriff Timothy Howard and state Republican Chairman Nick Langworthy. They don’t have to go as far as Alabama’s Republican governor, Kay Ivey, who declared it “time to start blaming the unvaccinated folks” for the continued spread of the virus. But they could.

We are at a risky moment. The pandemic is under better control because of the vaccines, but it continues to spread, with dangerous economic, social and personal consequences. There is only one way out and the vaccine resisters are blocking the door. We need to help them through it, either by inviting them or giving them a helpful shove.

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