Coronavirus cases, fueled by the delta variant, are continuing their frightening climb while doctors and public health experts beg people to get vaccinated.
The Allen County Department of Health on Friday announced another COVID-19 death; that's at least five in the past week, amid more than 1,600 new cases. The disease so far this month has killed at least 16 local residents, compared to 26 deaths for May, June and July combined.
“It's critically important we not overwhelm our health care systems or our health care workers,” Allen County Health Commissioner Dr. Matthew Sutter said in a statement urging residents to seek vaccinations and wear masks indoors, regardless of vaccination status.
“Our systems are rapidly filling up with very ill COVID-19 patients,” he said. “Our health care workers are exhausted and not yet recovered from the last surge in the fall and winter. We have an obligation to our community, and I urge all Allen County residents to take the actions listed above.”
Vaccinations are trending upward, but slowly. Only about half of eligible Hoosiers are fully vaccinated, and appeals by physicians and government officials to get the jab for the safety of others have largely fallen flat.
Recent efforts by business leaders to shift the discussion from altruism to economics are welcome.
The Indiana Chamber of Commerce last week launched “COVID Stops Here,” a statewide campaign designed to allow businesses with high levels of vaccination among employees to promote their good work and potentially influence others to get the shots that will quell the pandemic. It's modeled after similar initiatives in Missouri and Kentucky and offers businesses with at least a 70% vaccination rate special designations.
Platinum businesses have all workers vaccinated; gold have 90%; silver have 80%; and bronze have 70%. Employers can use the designations to market themselves through signage or on social media.
“This promotion can have a big impact on safety and morale, as well as positively influence your relationships with customers, visitors and partners,” a statement announcing the campaign says. “... A key part of the campaign is reaching out to those businesses whose workforce vaccination rate has not yet reached 70% and offering guidance and information to spur increased numbers.”
More than 80 Indiana businesses already have signed on, with nearly half in the platinum category. Few are in northeast Indiana, though the Syracuse Wawasee Chamber of Commerce is among those hailing a 100% vaccination rate.
Jennifer Pferrer, executive director of the Chamber's Wellness Council of Indiana – another entity with all workers vaccinated – said deciding to work with businesses to encourage inoculations was simple.
“Indiana businesses are really wanting to get back to business,” she said Friday. “The way to do that is to get workers vaccinated.”
The campaign comes as businesses across the U.S. implement other ways to encourage vaccinations. Delta Air Lines has said it will charge unvaccinated workers $200 per month. Insurance companies are considering charging higher premiums for the unvaccinated.
The time for asking nicely is over. Businesses can help boost Indiana's vaccination rates.