The big idea
Vaccine mandates are working. Anti-vaccine violence is worrying
On a November day 300 years ago next month, someone threw a bomb through Cotton Mather’s window. The Puritan minister, probably more associated in the public mind today with the Salem Witch Trials, was a champion of inoculation against smallpox amid a deadly outbreak in Boston — despite significant, even ferocious resistance.
The bomb didn’t go off. But it bore a message: “Cotton Mather, you dog, dam you! I’ll inoculate you with this; with a pox to you.”
Three centuries later, America has caught a different kind of vaccine fever: Sparring between a majority (51 percent) who support President Biden’s vaccine mandate proposal, and 34 percent who oppose it, according to an Associated Press-NORC poll released Thursday.
That’s just Biden’s proposal to require all businesses with more than 100 employees to require their workers to be vaccinated or face weekly testing. It’s still being drafted at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, but it’s expected to cover tens of millions of Americans.
The private sector isn’t waiting. And there, mandates to get the shot(s) or potentially lose your job have proven successful at convincing previously reluctant workers.
United Airlines, the first carrier to require its workers get vaccinated, reported Thursday that the number of employees facing termination for refusing to do so had dropped from 593 to 320, my colleague Lori Aratani reported. The airline has about 67,000 workers.
North Carolina-based Novant Health made news Monday when it moved to fire 175 employees for not complying with its mandate. But as my colleague Timothy Bella noted, it oversees 15 hospitals and 800 clinics and has about 35,000 employees, meaning that 99.5 percent have opted to get the jab.
Tyson Foods told its 120,000 U.S. employees Aug. 3 that they needed to get vaccinated. As of this week, 109,000 have been vaccinated. According to the New York Times, less than half of its workforce had been vaccinated around the time of the announcement.
At the New York Times, Shawn Hubler reported Thursday: “California’s requirement for all health care workers to be vaccinated against the coronavirus, which took effect Thursday, appears to have compelled tens of thousands of unvaccinated employees to get shots in recent weeks, bolstering the case for employer mandates.
In a survey of more than a dozen of the state’s major hospital systems, most health care employers reported vaccination rates this week of 90 percent or higher, with hundreds — and in some cases, thousands — more workers in some systems opting to be vaccinated, rather than to apply for limited medical or religious exemptions, since Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration issued the health order Aug. 5.”
There are definitely cases in which the mandates — or rather, refusals to get vaccinated — have caused significant disruptions.
Untold thousands of New York health workers could lose their jobs, prompting Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) to sign an order Monday enabling National Guard troops with medical training to fill in.
But as Andrew Jeong and Adela Suliman reported this morning: “A New York state mandate that took effect this week, requiring health-care workers to be vaccinated against the deadly coronavirus, has boosted the immunization rates of care providers, to the relief of officials who had worried that the order could lead to mass walkouts and staff shortages.
As of Wednesday, 87 percent of hospital staff were fully vaccinated, up from 84 percent the previous week, the state reported. Between 89 and 92 percent of staff working in hospitals, nursing homes and adult care facilities had received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, it added.”
And NPR reported Wednesday that, while surveys show half of unvaccinated workers say they’d rather quit than get the jab, few actually follow through.
The Massachusetts State Police Union recently warned that “dozens” of its more than 2,000 troopers had submitted resignation papers in response to a vaccine requirement. But the State Police said Monday just one had definitively said he would retire. Guess we’ll see.
“We support these requirements because they work,” White House spokesman Kevin Munoz said Thursday night. “These requirements are getting more people vaccinated, which will in turn help stop the spread of COVID-19 and keep workers safe.”
Attacks on health-care workers
That’s not all we’ve seen, though. Another phenomenon bears watching: Attacks on health-care workers, sometimes by vaccine opponents.
Cox Medical Center Branson in Missouri said in a Facebook post earlier this month that violence against its workers had tripled over the past year, leading the facility to give employees panic buttons.
At the Texas Tribune, Karen Brooks Harper reported in early September: “the pandemic has exacerbated the stress that can escalate into threats and violence, as people are now contending with not just the virus but also job loss and other stresses, said Karen Garvey, vice president of patient safety and clinical risk management at Parkland Health & Hospital System in Dallas.
Garvey said confrontations at Parkland just this year have included ‘people being punched in the chest, having urine thrown on them and inappropriate sexual innuendos or behaviors in front of staff members. The verbal abuse, the name-calling, racial slurs … we’ve had broken bones, broken noses.’”
At the Associated Press, Rebecca Boone reported Wednesday: “It’s gotten so bad in northern Idaho that some Kootenai Health employees are scared to go to the grocery store if they haven’t changed out of their scrubs, said hospital spokeswoman Caiti Bobbitt on Tuesday.”
The heirs of Cotton Mather’s bomb-thrower are still out there.
What's happening now
To vote or not to vote … on infrastructure
“There will be a vote today.” The House is expected to try once again to vote on the $1 trillion infrastructure bill. Democrats huddled this morning, but no timing for the vote has been announced yet.
Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh tested positive for the coronavirus despite being vaccinated, the Supreme Court announced. The court said he took a test on Thursday and has no symptoms, John Wagner reports. The other justices had tested negative as of Monday, the court said. The court’s new term starts Monday. It was not immediately clear how Kavanaugh’s positive test might affect his participation.
The Biden agenda
Hot off Post presses
New: Senior Biden aides privately explored whether payments could continue even if the U.S. breached the debt ceiling.
- “The review concluded that the White House would be unable to avoid falling behind on obligations and catastrophic economic consequences even if the administration effectively tried to spend in defiance of the debt ceiling, according to one of the officials familiar with the deliberations,” Jeff Stein and Tyler Pager report.
- “As part of their internal review, White House officials have circulated internal memos with a range of untested theories should Congress fail to resolve the debt ceiling standoff, including the creation of a $1 trillion ‘coin’ idea that has been popular among some liberals for years, the people said. But these options have been set aside as unworkable.”
- “The previously undisclosed talks reflect the extent of planning within the administration over the debt ceiling as lawmakers in Congress remain at odds over the GOP’s refusal to provide votes to address the matter.”
- “White House officials have reached the conclusion that unilateral action is not viable and the only way to avoid economic devastation is for Congress to act to maintain the full faith and credit of the U.S. government, according to the officials and Michael Gwin, White House spokesman.”
Lunchtime reads from The Post
Latinos across the country are embracing their power in a shifting America. “Latinos in the United States are coming full circle: Some of our ancestors were here before the country was born, and the recent census report shows that our already significant presence is only expected to grow,” Silvia Foster-Frau and Rachel Hatzipanagos report.
- “Our growth is not only happening in Texas, California and Florida, the three states with the highest Hispanic populations. From 2010 to 2020, the Latino population more than doubled in North Dakota, and in Montana, it grew 50 percent. All 50 states and D.C. have seen growth in their Hispanic populations since 2010.”
- “We call ourselves by different names: Latinos, Latinxs, Latines. Or we prefer to be specific: Boricua or Chicano, Dominican or Venezuelan American. While light-skinned Hispanics dominate depictions of Latinos in the U.S. and Latin America, Black and Indigenous Hispanics have been calling attention to deep-seated issues of colorism within the community. And yet we’re bonded by a shared struggle for recognition and representation.”
The price of living near the shore is already high. It’s about to go through the roof. “On Friday, the Federal Emergency Management Agency will incorporate climate risk into the cost of flood insurance for the first time, dramatically increasing the price for some new home buyers. Next April, most current policyholders will see their premiums go up and continue to rise by 18 percent per year for the next 20 years,” Darryl Fears and Lori Rozsa report.
- “The price hike under a new assessment, Risk Rating 2.0, will more accurately reflect the threat of flooding in a changing climate, federal officials say. Most homeowners will see modest increases starting at $120 per year in addition to what they already pay, and a few will see their insurance costs decrease. But wealthy customers with high-value homes will see their costs skyrocket by as much as $14,400 for one year.”
Infowar’s Alex Jones must pay damages to Sandy Hook families after calling the shooting a “giant hoax,” a judge ruled. “Jones repeatedly failed to hand over documents and evidence to the court supporting his damaging and erroneous claims that the school shooting in Newtown, Conn.,” Timothy Bella reports.
- “[The] ruling, which was unsealed Thursday, lambasted Jones and his website’s parent company, Free Speech Systems, for having ‘intentionally disobeyed’ the court’s requests and showing ‘flagrant bad faith and callous disregard’ in not turning over documents related to this and other lawsuits filed against him.”
… and beyond
Every single soldier who worked for Brig. Gen. Amy Johnston believed her office was a hostile workplace. Task & Purpose’s Haley Britzky breaks down how the first career public affairs officer to hold the Army’s top public relations job drove down morale so fast.
- “100% of soldiers in the office thought it was a hostile workplace — an overwhelming response that is practically unheard of, according to multiple sources. … The survey results are even more significant when considering who works in OCPA: primarily field grade officers and senior noncommissioned officers. In other words, the respondents of this survey were not soldiers new to the Army.”
Even in solid Republican Texas counties, hard-liners want more partisan control of elections. “The political battle in one Texas county where Trump got 81% of the vote offers a rare view into the virulent distrust and unyielding pressure facing elections administrators,” the Texas Tribune’s Jeremy Schwartz reports.
- “Hood County stands out nationally and within Texas because it offers a rare view into the virulent distrust and unyielding political pressure facing elections administrators even in communities that Trump safely won. The county also represents the escalation of a wider push to replace independent administrators with more actively partisan election officials.”
The case of the first alleged ransomware death. In Alabama, “a lawsuit says computer outages from a cyberattack led staff to miss troubling signs, resulting in [a] baby’s death, allegations the hospital denies,” the Wall Street Journal’s Kevin Poulsen, Robert McMillan and Melanie Evans report.
Coronavirus treatment in a pill?
Merck’s experimental pill to treat covid-19 cuts the risk of hospitalization and death in half, the pharmaceutical company reported
- “Merck and partner Ridgeback Biotherapeutics said in a news release they would apply for emergency use authorization for the drug, molnupiravir, in the United States as soon as possible. It would be the first antiviral pill for covid-19,” Carolyn Y. Johnson reports. “A simple, easy-to-prescribe pill that prevents mild and moderate cases of covid-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, from turning into dire episodes has been one of the missing pieces of the medical armamentarium to fight the virus.”
- “Merck has already begun producing molnupiravir. The small brown capsules must be taken twice a day for five days. The company predicts it will make 10 million courses of treatment by the end of the year. The U.S. government made an advance purchase of 1.7 million treatment courses of the drug at a cost of $1.2 billion.”
The New York state mandate that went into effect last week requiring health-care workers to be vaccinated has already boosted immunization rates
- “As of Wednesday, 87 percent of hospital staff were fully vaccinated, up from 84 percent the previous week, the state reported. Between 89 and 92 percent of staff working in hospitals, nursing homes and adult care facilities had received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, it added,” Andrew Jeong and Adela Suliman report.
- “The state’s mandate has not been without protest — some doctors, nurses and other providers filed lawsuits, arguing that the state didn’t provide sufficient exemptions.”
Storms striking land, visualized
“Decades of record-keeping show U.S. hurricane seasons have alternated between extremely busy and eerily quiet periods.” Here’s a look at the unparalleled frequency tropical storms and hurricanes have hit U.S. shores.
Hot on the left
Harriet Hageman once rebuked Trump and endorsed Liz Cheney. She's now challenging her with his support, CNN’s Andrew Kaczynski and Em Steck report. “In a speech endorsing Cheney's 2016 congressional campaign Hageman attacked the ‘concerted efforts to force true conservatives to sit down and shut up,’ adding those efforts ‘have never worked on me and I know that they will not work on and have no effect on Liz Cheney.’ The comments from Hageman, found … in footage of the Wyoming Republican Party's convention that year, show the abrupt about-face from the Wyoming attorney, who received Trump's backing in the GOP primary against Cheney earlier this month.”
Hot on the right
The vice president’s office is doing damage control over a student’s Israel “ethnic genocide” comment. “Harris’ office is working behind the scenes to mend relationships with pro-Israel Democrats after not pushing back on a student who, in asking her a question, accused Israel of ‘ethnic genocide,’” Politico’s Alex Thompson and Sam Stein report. “Harris' senior staff contacted the influential Democratic Majority for Israel to clean up remarks she made Wednesday at George Mason University where Harris was visiting a classroom of students. ‘We were pleased Vice President Harris’s senior staff reached out to us today to confirm what we already knew: Her ‘commitment to Israel’s security is unwavering,’’ said Mark Mellman, the president of the group.”
Today in Washington
There are no public events listed in Biden’s schedule. Harris will travel to California.
Trevor Noah explained the chaos caused by the microchip shortage:
Thanks for reading. See you Monday.