- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 19, 2021

More than 6 in 10 U.S. voters believe the coronavirus pandemic is becoming less serious, but a plurality thinks President Biden and his top medical officials aren’t interested in dropping mandates even as high-profile figures shirk the shots and big companies say they don’t need requirements to increase uptake, according to polling released by a conservative group Tuesday.

The Convention of States Action, working with the Trafalgar Group polling firm, found that 63% of likely voters in the midterm elections think the pandemic is on the wane, while about a quarter think it is getting more serious.

Reported daily infections (about 83,000) and overall U.S. hospitalizations (about 60,000) are down by about 20% compared to two weeks ago.

Independents were the most likely to say the pandemic is less serious, at nearly 75%, compared to nearly 72% of Republicans and nearly 49% of Democrats.

At the same time, the convention found 47% of voters, driven by Republicans and independents, suspect Mr. Biden and his top medical adviser, Dr. Anthony Fauci, don’t want to drop mandates, while nearly 37% think officials do want to lighten up.

Mr. Biden told the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to write a regulation mandating companies with 100 or more workers to require the vaccine or weekly testing of holdouts.

The rulemaking process is taking several weeks, prompting business groups to seek clarity on what the rules will require and how to enforce them.

The White House says it is moving forward because universities and companies like United Airlines have seen their vaccination rates soar above 90% after imposing a mandate, but others say they’ve been able to be successful without a requirement that sparks a clash with the workforce.

Delta Airlines CEO Ed Bastian, who, unlike rivals, resisted a mandate on existing employees, recently said his company managed to get 90% of its employers vaccinated and the rate should lift to 95%. He’s hoping it proves to the White House that companies can forge their own path.

“The reason the mandate was put in by the president, I believe, was because they wanted to make sure companies had a plan to get their employees vaccinated,” Mr. Bastian told Fox Business last week. “A month before the president came out with the mandate, we had already announced our plan to get all of our people vaccinated. And the good news is the plan is working.”

Unvaccinated Delta employees must be masked at all times and the company pays for them to be tested weekly. As of Nov. 1, unvaccinated employees face a $200 monthly surcharge on their company insurance plans.

Since May, Delta has required new hires to be vaccinated.

“By the time we’re done we’ll be pretty close to fully vaccinated as a company without going through all the divisiveness of a mandate,” Mr. Bastian told Fox. “We’re proving that you can work collaboratively with your people, trusting your people to make the right decisions, respecting their decisions and not forcing them over the loss of their jobs.”

Southwest Airlines this week scrapped a plan to place unvaccinated workers on paid leave in early December while their requests for religious or medical exemptions are reviewed.

Instead, workers can report while wearing masks and observing distancing guidelines until their requests have been reviewed.

Mandates are taking a bite elsewhere.

ESPN sideline reporter Allison Williams offered a tearful goodbye on Instagram, saying she refused the vaccine because she was trying to have a second child and ended up “separated” from the cable outlet owned by Disney.

Washington State University fired football coach Nick Rolovich on Monday for refusing the vaccine in violation of Gov. Jay Inslee’s requirement. Mr. Rolovich was the state’s highest-paid employee.

• Tom Howell Jr. can be reached at thowell@washingtontimes.com.

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