Vaccine mandates work, most people support them, and it's maddening that we even need them at all

As debates over vaccine mandates raged this summer, United Airlines took the decisive step to require all employees to get vaccinated for COVID-19. Employees who applied and were approved for a medical or religious exemption would be placed on medical leave and risk losing income. Those who refused the vaccine and did not receive an exemption would be terminated.

The not-messing-around approach worked smashingly. Prior to the deadline, only a fraction of a percent of United's staff—320 out of 67,000 employees—ended up choosing termination. That left United Airlines with an astounding 99.5% vaccination rate.

United took a risk and it paid off. Not only did the company retain the vast majority of its workforce, but applicants started clamoring to work for the airline. According to The New York Times, the airline received 20,000 applications for approximately 2,000 flight attendant positions after the vaccine mandate was announced.

United kicked off a trend. Other airlines followed suit, and we saw more and more companies requiring employees to be vaccinated.

Vaccine mandates have proven successful, but not without controversy. Within an already understaffed health care industry, the risk of losing employees who refuse to be vaccinated is real. So is the risk of unvaccinated health care workers treating patients.

In California, mandates for health care workers resulted in a huge uptick in vaccinations. The same thing happened in Texas. Despite predictions of a mass exodus of New York and New Jersey health care workers, only a small number chose to quit when mandates took effect. In fact, many of those who chose to stay on and take the alternative weekly testing option decided to get vaccinated after just a few weeks of being swabbed.

Mandates clearly work—but it's maddening that we have had to resort to them. Some success stories have proven that mandates aren't always necessary to reach a high vaccination rate. After being the only team in the NFL to have zero COVID-19 cases during last season, the Seattle Seahawks made a strong push to get their staff and players vaccinated. The NFL asked for teams to try for an 85% vaccination rate; with just one player declining, the Seahawks hit a whopping 99% vaccination rate weeks before the football season even began. By the time the season officially started, the NFL reported that 93% of players across the league had been vaccinated—a far higher percentage than the general population.

Perhaps that's due to the stringent protocols players who aren't vaccinated have to go through. Perhaps it's the sense of competition within the league and the knowledge that COVID-19 outbreaks can derail a team's chances of a winning season. Perhaps it's because NFL players are supportive of science and common sense than the average American. Whatever it is, the NFL has proven it's possible to create a culture that results in a high vaccination rate without mandates.

If only we could figure out how to create that culture in this country as a whole.

There are legitimate debates to be had about the government mandating vaccines (despite public schools having mandated vaccinations for more than a century), but it's harder to argue against private businesses and organizations requiring them as a condition of employment or participation. People sure do try, though. Anti-vaxxers and "freedom fighters" who disagree with all manner of mandates in the name of personal liberty are loud and proud in their stance. But that doesn't mean they're right.

According to Gallup, the majority of Americans support COVID-19 vaccine mandates. Other polls, including one from Fox News, have found the same thing. If mandates are going to help us stop losing tens of thousands of Americans every month, bring them on.

In a global pandemic that has taken the lives of more than 700,000 Americans in a year and a half, vaccines that lower the risk of infection and transmission and greatly lower the risk of hospitalization and death are a gift. Mandate or no mandate, getting vaccinated is objectively the right thing to do. It would be fabulous if we could get to a high vaccination rate without creating requirements, but with few exceptions (like the NFL), that ideal has proven to be unrealistic.

If it weren't for the massive misinformation machine derailing reality for millions, far fewer people would refuse the vaccine. We're battling a crisis of viral conspiracy theories in addition to the actual viral pandemic, and something has to give.


Meet Eva, the hero dog who risked her life saving her owner from a mountain lion

Wilson had been walking down a path with Eva when a mountain lion suddenly appeared.

Photo by Didssph on Unsplash

A sweet face and fierce loyalty: Belgian Malinois defends owner.

The Belgian Malinois is a special breed of dog. It's highly intelligent, extremely athletic and needs a ton of interaction. While these attributes make the Belgian Malinois the perfect dog for police and military work, they can be a bit of a handful as a typical pet.

As Belgian Malinois owner Erin Wilson jokingly told NPR, they’re basically "a German shepherd on steroids or crack or cocaine.”

It was her Malinois Eva’s natural drive, however, that ended up saving Wilson’s life.

According to a news release from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Wilson had been walking down a path with Eva slightly ahead of her when a mountain lion suddenly appeared and swiped Wilson across the left shoulder. She quickly yelled Eva’s name and the dog’s instincts kicked in immediately. Eva rushed in to defend her owner.

It wasn’t long, though, before the mountain lion won the upper hand, much to Wilson’s horror.

She told TODAY, “They fought for a couple seconds, and then I heard her start crying. That’s when the cat latched on to her skull.”

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Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy asked his Senate colleagues the questions millions of Americans have after a mass shooting.

Another school shooting. Another mass murder of innocent children. They were elementary school kids this time. There were 18 children killed—so far—this time.

The fact that I can say "this time" is enraging, but that's the routine nature of mass shootings in the U.S. It happened in Texas this time. At least three adults were killed this time. The shooter was a teenager this time.

The details this time may be different than the last time and the time before that, and the time before that, and the time before that. But there's one thing all mass shootings have in common. No, it's not mental illness. It's not racism or misogyny or religious extremism. It's not bad parenting or violent video games or lack of religion.

Some of those things have been factors in some shootings, but the single common denominator in every mass shooting is guns. That's not a secret. It's not controversial. It's fact. The only thing all mass shootings have in common is guns.

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Man uses TikTok to offer 'dinner with dad' to any kid that needs one, even adult ones

Summer Clayton is the father of 2.4 million kids and he couldn’t be more proud.

Come for the food, stay for the wholesomeness.

Summer Clayton is the father of 2.4 million kids and he couldn’t be more proud. His TikTok channel is dedicated to giving people intimate conversations they might long to have with their own father, but can’t. The most popular is his “Dinner With Dad” segment.

The concept is simple: Clayton, aka Dad, always sets down two plates of food. He always tells you what’s for dinner. He always blesses the food. He always checks in with how you’re doing.

I stress the stability here, because as someone who grew up with a less-than-stable relationship with their parents, it stood out immediately. I found myself breathing a sigh of relief at Clayton’s consistency. I also noticed the immediate emotional connection created just by being asked, “How was your day?” According to relationship coach and couples counselor Don Olund, these two elements—stability and connection—are fundamental cravings that children have of their parents. Perhaps we never really stop needing it from them.

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