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The vaccinated deserve better

Despite vaccinations, the region is still not safe

Despite vaccinations, the region is still not safe from the pandemic. Credit: Newsday / Steve Pfost

The warning signs are flashing. The alarms are going off.

The recent surge of COVID-19 cases mostly due to the rise of the more contagious delta strain would be enough to encourage almost all residents to get vaccinated. But so far, no moral, civic, communal or scientific argument, no incentive or local pop-up has gotten us over the finish line.

Those of us acting responsibly shouldn't have to be put at risk by living our lives. The vaccinated majority shouldn't have to bear the burden any longer. It's time for the unvaccinated to face repercussions for their unwise and unsafe choices.

It's time to take more drastic steps.

President Joe Biden is considering mandating vaccines for federal employees, while Mayor Bill de Blasio will require shots or weekly testing for New York City workers come September. Some restaurants and bars are becoming vaccine-only zones, as are a few entertainment venues, like Radio City Music Hall.

New York says about 75% of its adult population is vaccinated and Nassau says its percentage has risen to 81% — but those statistics only include people 18 and older who've received at least one shot, so the actual fully immunized rates are lower. The reality is neither the region nor the state has reached the point where we're safe from the pandemic.

So Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, county executives Laura Curran of Nassau and Steve Bellone of Suffolk and local school districts must take action.

Neither Nassau nor Suffolk counties could provide a percentage of vaccinated county employees. In New York City, 60% of teachers are vaccinated, so without a mandate, 40% of children not yet cleared to take the vaccine would be taught by unvaccinated teachers. That's unacceptable. While the city's plan to give outliers a weekly testing alternative is a good start, a stricter mandate may be necessary. Universities requiring the shot for students and workers will keep young adults safe. Mandates for health care workers are necessary too, as the Hospital for Special Surgery in Manhattan announced Tuesday.

Private businesses, including restaurants and theaters, can do their part, too. Limiting service to the vaccinated would keep employees safe and be good for business. Sports teams like the New York Mets, Yankees, Jets and Giants should require fans in attendance to be vaccinated. The Islanders should plan for their new arena to open only to vaccinated fans. Nassau Coliseum, the NYCB Theatre at Westbury and every other local venue should follow suit.

If they don't, the State Legislature should consider requiring it.

Without these efforts, the pandemic will rage. We will not return to "normal." The vaccinated will pay the price, as with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's latest necessary mask guidance. And our children, the immunocompromised and others will remain at risk.

Get the shot. Otherwise, it's time for you to suffer the consequences.

MEMBERS OF THE EDITORIAL BOARD are experienced journalists who offer reasoned opinions, based on facts, to encourage informed debate about the issues facing our community.