That’s the share of previously unvaccinated employees at Delta Air Lines who have changed their minds and gotten vaccinated in the two weeks since the company announced it would make those who didn’t get the jab pay more for health insurance.
The number represents an increase of 4 percentage points in Delta’s overall vaccination rate against COVID-19 since Aug. 25. That’s when the company said it planned to offset rising health care costs for unvaccinated workers in the airline’s health care plan by adding a $200 monthly surcharge for those employees, starting Nov. 1. Of Delta’s 80,000 employees, 78% are now vaccinated, up from 74% in late August.
Before the surcharge was announced, the airline offered incentives such as cash prizes to convince more people to get the shot. But about 20,000 Delta employees still had not been vaccinated, and convincing 20% of that group to get the shot in the last two weeks represents “a huge number in terms of shifting that group that’s most reluctant,” said Dr. Henry Ting, Delta’s chief health officer, during a media briefing on Thursday.
People who are not vaccinated against COVID-19 are 4.9 times more likely to be infected with the virus and 29.2 times more likely to be hospitalized than vaccinated people, according to a recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
With this in mind, President Joe Biden took his own actions Thursday to boost the number of vaccinated people nationwide, announcing a wide-ranging set of initiatives affecting tens of millions of people. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration will require all private employers with 100 or more employees to ensure that their workers are either vaccinated against the coronavirus or produce a negative test result at least weekly.
Biden gave many federal workers no such option, though, signing an executive order that requires anyone employed by the executive branch to be vaccinated, and directing the same to apply to contractors that do business with the federal government. That’s a step further than an order Biden signed in July requiring any of the 4 million federal government workers who weren’t vaccinated to wear masks, physically distance themselves from other people while on the job, and get tested at least once a week.
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