| The Washington Times
Delta Air Lines plans to impose a $200-per-month fee on unvaccinated employees enrolled in the company health plan as of Nov. 1, an unusual policy that stops short of a mandate but might compel workers to get the shots.
The airline also will require unvaccinated workers to wear masks indoors and submit to weekly COVID-19 testing as of Sept. 12 in communities where cases are “high,” according to a Wednesday memo from Delta CEO Ed Bastian.
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican, recently signed an executive order that prohibits local government from imposing COVID-19 rules on private businesses, though it allows firms to require masks or vaccinations.
Mr. Bastian said 75% of the Atlanta-based company’s 75,000 employees are fully vaccinated and new hires are required to get the shots, but they need to do more in the face of fast-moving variants.
He said the average hospital stay for COVID-19 has cost Delta $50,000 per person, necessitating the monthly fee.
“This surcharge will be necessary to address the financial risk the decision to not vaccinate is creating for our company. In recent weeks since the rise of the B.1.617.2 variant, all Delta employees who have been hospitalized with COVID were not fully vaccinated,” he said, using the technical term for the delta variant that happens to share a name with the company.
Mr. Bastian said that as of Sept. 30, Delta will provide special pay protection only to vaccinated persons who experience a “breakthrough” infection and not those who are unvaccinated and get sick.
States, cities and corporations across America are imposing vaccine mandates as they try to resume normal operations this fall but face a delta variant surge that is upending their plans.
The Pentagon told active-duty troops on Wednesday to get vaccinated immediately, following the Food and Drug Administration’s decision to license the vaccine from Pfizer-BioNTech on Monday.
Mr. Bastian highlighted the approval decision in his memo.
“I know some of you may be taking a wait-and-see approach or waiting for full FDA approval,” he wrote. “With this week’s announcement that the FDA has granted full approval for the Pfizer vaccine, the time for you to get vaccinated is now. We can be confident that the Pfizer vaccine is safe and effective, and has undergone the same rigorous review for other approved medications to treat cancer and heart disease, as well as other vaccines.”
Other major airlines have not mandated the vaccines, though United Airlines says employees have until Sept. 27 to get vaccinated, now that one version is fully approved.