We’ve reached a plateau for Philadelphians getting vaccinated for Covid-19, and like every other region across the country, there are concerns that the virus will return here with a vengeance in the coming months as we enter flu season and the winter weather. Even with a majority of people vaccinated the virus can still spread to immunocompromised people, unvaccinated adults and children, and even those who are vaccinated. So how can we as a community ensure that we’re doing everything we can to both protect people and keep our businesses viable?
It’s looking more and more likely that mandates might be the only solution to ensure 85% of Americans get vaccinated. But who should be responsible for those vaccine mandates? Is it fair to ask local businesses, after all the financial and personal hardship they and their employees have been through in the past 18 months, to mandate vaccines and risk losing customers? And if it’s not fair to businesses, is it then fair to ask a city, after all the similar hardship it has gone through, to have a mandate for its public services? What about states?
Perhaps it’s better if certain industries, specifically those that facilitate dense crowds, were tasked with vaccine mandates. A lot of people need to travel, either for work or for pleasure. And those planes, trains, and buses are cramped spaces with a lot of people.
If the airline industry were forced to adopt a vaccine mandate, how many unvaccinated people would bite their tongue and get the shot in order to visit their loved ones for Thanksgiving? If the events industry were forced to adopt a vaccine mandate for large concerts, how many unvaccinated people would grumble under their breath but then get jabbed in order to see their favorite band in concert? If various public school systems forced all students to get vaccinated, how many anti-vax parents would immunize their children rather than seek alternative learning solutions?
The obvious answer is: almost all of them.
We already have historical and modern data that supports the effectiveness of mandates. School systems and universities have mandated vaccines for decades and it has never been a major issue. Students simply got the required vaccines. Period. And now, countries like Aruba are requiring vaccines for tourists. Only the most stubborn of anti-vax individuals would forgo their vacation to prove a point. For most people, it’s simply not worth the hassle of never flying again, or never getting to that favorite destination again, or getting to that favorite restaurant again.
We’re about to enter a period of weather where it simply won’t be feasible to have a lot of events outdoors. Unless a business can afford heat lamps and has the space, it’s back to indoor dining and drinking. It’s true that a vaccine mandate might anger a customer enough to drive them away. But if a group of customers get Covid, that will also make business go down, probably more than the vaccine mandate would.
On September 14, Theatre Philadelphia and more than thirty regional theatres announced that they will require audiences to be either fully vaccinated or have a negative Covid test to attend indoor shows.
Is it fair to force a similar vaccine/negative test mandate on local bars and restaurants? No. But is it something that those business owners should consider? Absolutely. And is it the right thing to do? Again, absolutely. A large percentage of the LGBTQ community is vaccinated. Perhaps the remaining unvaccinated would be swayed if they were denied entry to their favorite spots. Perhaps that’s what it will take to get us over the vaccine finish line, not just in Philadelphia, but throughout the country.