The epidemic of the unvaccinated is exhausting health workers, slowing economic recovery and killing people. Mandates can end it.

With the arrival of a safe, effective vaccine in record time and doses readily available for free, COVID-19 should be in America’s rearview mirror by now.

Instead, hospitals in multiple states, like in Idaho, are overwhelmed with the unvaccinated. Nurses and doctors are buckling under the strain of another surge. Economic recovery, robust after the initial rollout of the vaccine, is slowing as the delta variant’s contagiousness spooks workers and companies.

Analysis of government data published by Health System Tracker shows a total of 287,000 preventable hospitalizations among the unvaccinated between June and August. Hospital costs are estimated to billions of dollars.

Author Christina Baker Kline described in the Washington Post how COVID-19 played into the death of her vaccinated father, age 83.

William Baker could not be transferred to a rehab facility after his simple hip surgery because they were filled with unvaccinated COVID patients. While being treated for MRSA, a serious, hospital-borne bacterial infection that he contracted while waiting, one of his nurses, who was unvaccinated, was diagnosed with COVID. Soon, so was he. That complication led to his unnecessary death.

The irony is that the family members had to wear masks, visit one at a time, wait in line outside, answer COVID-exposure questions and get temperature checked. There was no hospital mandate for staff to be vaccinated.

On Sept. 9, President Joe Biden put an end to assumptions that enough Americans would step up, get vaccinated and keep those who cannot do so safe. “Our patience is wearing thin and your refusal has cost all of us,” he said in mandating vaccines for as many as 100 million people in public and private-sector jobs.

California imposed its own mandates in August. Health-care workers could either be vaccinated by Sept. 30 or lose their jobs. Having reached that date, vaccination rates in three Sacramento-area health care systems are now higher than in the general population.

Mandates do not take away freedom. Like mandates that require wearing seat belts or steel-toed boots for safety, or clothes in public, vaccine mandates are a responsibility we accept in order to be a part of a civilized, orderly, healthy society.

Vaccine mandates must be implemented as the final necessary step toward putting COVID-19 behind us.

“Our View” represents the opinion of the newspaper editorial board, which is made up of members of its board of directors. Remarks may be directed to

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