Coronavirus Briefing: What Happened Today

New guidance on workplace vaccine mandates As businesses prepare to bring employees back to the office in the coming months, their exe...



As businesses prepare to bring employees back to the office in the coming months, their executives have been anxiously debating some thorny questions.

Should employees be required to be vaccinated before they return? Should workers have to prove they’ve had a shot (or two)?

To help them make these politically and legally fraught decisions, businesses have pressed the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for guidance. Late last week, the agency said that companies may mandate vaccines as a requisite for coming into the office.

But our colleague Lauren Hirsch, who writes for our sister DealBook newsletter, reported that the guidance also comes with a big caveat: Any vaccine mandate must abide by the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Civil Rights Act.

The A.D.A. requires companies to ensure some health information is kept confidential and accommodate those unable to be vaccinated.

The E.E.O.C also reminded employers to consider the fact that access to the vaccine is not yet equitably distributed. Certain groups face greater barriers to receiving the vaccine, and the agency said that employers should consider that in any back-to-work requirements.

The legal considerations, along with state laws and concerns about privacy, have spurred many companies to rely on incentives, rather than mandates. Some companies, including Olive Garden’s parent company, Darden Restaurants, are offering paid time off for employees to be vaccinated. Walmart is offering a $75 bonus to those who show proof of vaccination, while some financial firms are allowing vaccinated workers to go mask-free in the office.

The E.E.O.C said incentives are fine, but warned companies that they cannot be coercive — like giving vaccinated employees a large discount on medical plan coverage.

While some companies may wait to see how far incentives go in convincing employees to get a shot, others are moving ahead with broad vaccination requirements. Saks will require employees to be fully vaccinated when they start going to the office this fall. Delta will require new employees to be vaccinated, while schools like Columbia and Harvard are requiring vaccination for faculty, in addition to students.


Hundreds of families are now coping with a new kind of pandemic grief. Even as the U.S. begins to emerge from the pandemic, the virus continues to claim about 450 lives each day.

Unlike earlier periods when most Americans were seeing their lives affected by Covid, victims’ relatives now describe a new, lonely sorrow: They are mourning even as so many others are celebrating newfound freedom.

“Everybody is saying, ‘Oh, it’s fine,’” said Michele Preissler, who lost her husband to Covid-19 in late May. “I’m just thinking to myself, ‘If you only knew what I just went through.’”

Kole Riley’s mother’s death brought anger, at a moment when the rest of the country was feeling a jolt of optimism.

On the day the C.D.C. announced that vaccinated Americans no longer needed to wear masks in most situations indoors, Kole was at his mother’s bedside at a hospital near Sedona, Ariz., saying a final goodbye.

“I didn’t think I would be dealing with this,” he said, “when all the arrows are pointing back to normal.”


See how the vaccine rollout is going in your county and state.



Two weeks prior to the world shutting down last year, my husband and I separated. I have spent the last year learning how to be a single mom, home-schooling my six- and seven-year-old, and trying to re-enter the work force. When you throw in lawyers and custody and all things pandemic, l almost didn’t know if I was going to make it. But here I am, one year later, emerging from the chaos a stronger woman, a better mom and a happy divorcée.

— Hailey McDowell, Portland, Ore.

Let us know how you’re dealing with the pandemic. Send us a response here, and we may feature it in an upcoming newsletter.

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Email your thoughts to briefing@nytimes.com.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Coronavirus Briefing: What Happened Today
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