The drive to get Americans vaccinated accelerated on Monday when the most populous state and largest city in the United States announced that they would require their employees to get vaccinated against the coronavirus, or face frequent tests.
All municipal employees in New York City, including police officers and teachers, and all state employees and on-site public and private health care workers in California will have to be vaccinated or face at least weekly testing.
The Department of Veterans Affairs on Monday also became the first federal agency to mandate that some of its employees get inoculated.
The mandates are the most dramatic response yet to the lagging pace of vaccinations around the country in the face of the highly contagious Delta variant, which is tearing through communities with low rates of vaccination and creating what federal health officials have called a “pandemic of the unvaccinated.”
Only 49 percent of people in the United States are fully vaccinated, according to federal data.
Misinformation and skepticism have dogged the vaccine rollout, and in recent weeks coronavirus infection and hospitalizations have risen, with a fourfold increase in new cases per day over the last month.
But all three indicators are well below the devastating winter peaks last winter, and vaccines have proven to be very effective protection against the coronavirus. Cities, private employers and other institutions have increasingly turned to mandates to ensure that more people become vaccinated.
Hospitals and health care systems like NewYork-Presbyterian and Trinity Health have announced vaccine mandates, in some cases touching off union protests. The National Football League announced it could penalize teams with players who do not get vaccinated. Delta Air Lines will require new employees to be vaccinated, but not its current workers. And last week a federal judge ruled that Indiana University could require vaccinations for students and staff members.
New York City will require its roughly 340,000 municipal workers to be vaccinated against the coronavirus by the time schools reopen in mid-September or face weekly testing, Mayor Bill de Blasio said.
The new requirement in California, which will apply to roughly 246,000 state employees and many more health care workers in the state, will be implemented by Aug. 23, Governor Gavin Newsom said.
At the V.A., one of the largest federal employers and the biggest integrated health care system in the country, 115,000 frontline health care workers will have to get vaccinated in the next two months, according to government officials. “I am doing this because it’s the best way to keep our veterans safe, full stop,” Denis McDonough, the secretary of veterans affairs, said in a telephone interview on Monday.
Eliza Shapiro, Dan Levin and Shawn Hubler contributed reporting.