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: Delta Air Line’s $200 surcharge on unvaccinated workers has pushed more workers to get the shot

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There’s signs a new way of nudging unvaccinated workers into COVID-19 shots may be working.

It’s been two weeks since Delta Air Lines
DAL,
+4.21%

said it would start giving unvaccinated workers $200 monthly surcharges and the airline is already seeing the announcement move the needle on its internal vaccination rate, according to its top medical official.

In the brief span of time, the company’s vaccination rate climbed to 78% from 74%, Dr. Henry Ting, senior vice president and chief health officer at Delta said Thursday.

Nearly 20% of the remaining 20,000 workers without shots have now started the vaccination process “which I think is a huge number in terms of shifting that group that’s most reluctant.”


Nearly 20% of the remaining 20,000 workers without shots have now started the vaccination process.

Furthermore, he added, the company with 80,000 employees hasn’t seen any worker turnover as a result.

At this point, a four percentage-point climb is no small feat because the people who remain unvaccinated also tend to be the most hesitant, compared to the people who initially rushed to get their shots, Ting noted.

Delta already set up on-site vaccination clinics, held a lottery in its outreach promoting vaccination, and Ting is also personally talking to workers.

Delta’s surcharge policy starts in November and, starting Sunday, unvaccinated workers will have to undergo weekly testing. An unvaccinated worker’s COVID-19 related hospitalization has cost Delta Air Lines $50,000 on average, CEO Ed Bastian noted in the late August announcement of the surcharges.

Ting spoke Thursday morning at an Infectious Diseases Society of America press briefing about the future of the workplace amid the continuing pandemic.

As of Wednesday, 75.2% of America’s adult population received at least one shot and 64.4% were fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Delta Air Line shares are up 2.7% from the start of the year. The Dow Jones Industrial Average
DJIA,
-0.36%

is up 14.5% and the S&P 500 is up more than 20% in the same time.

Joe Biden expected to announce stricter vaccine rules

Later Thursday, President Joe Biden is expected to announce even stricter vaccination rules for federal workers that will drop an unvaccinated worker’s option to undergo regular testing.

Surcharges and vaccine requirements might be part of the future of many COVID-19 workplace policies as the delta variant fuels more cases.

In a recent survey of more than 950 companies employing a combined 9.7 million people, 17% said they were considering making unvaccinated staff pay an extra healthcare cost.

Meanwhile, 12% were mulling a discount for vaccinated workers, the Wills Towers Watson
WLTW,
+4.70%

survey revealed. The same survey showed 21% of employers with some type of workplace vaccination requirement in place by the summer, up from 9% in the spring.

Ting noted the airline is making full vaccination a requirement for the approximately 10,000 new hires it’s bringing on as the travel business rebounds. Already halfway through the hiring process, Ting said the company has seen “no drop off in the number of people who are willing to join Delta Air Line as a new employee.”

There’s a less lenient take on COVID-19 vaccine holdouts, which is popping up not just in workplace policies.

Cities like New York City and San Francisco now require proof of vaccination for things like indoor dining and drinking.

Meanwhile, Howard Stern, the popular shock jock on SiriusXM, ripped into people who still haven’t received their COVID-19 shots. “F— their freedom. I want my freedom to live,” he said during his show on Tuesday.

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