Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top U.S. infectious disease expert, said Monday that the U.S. should “seriously” consider a vaccination mandate for domestic travel as states across the country face surges in COVID-19 cases from the more-transmissible omicron variant.
Speaking to MSNBC's "Morning Joe," Fauci, who serves as President Joe Biden’s chief science adviser on the COVID-19 response, said while the omicron variant appears to cause milder symptoms, especially for those who are vaccinated, data suggests its highly transmissible, making it very concerning for those who are unvaccinated because "just the volume of the number of cases that we're going to have could actually put a stress on the hospital system."
Asked whether he would recommend to the president a vaccination requirement for domestic travel, Fauci declined to answer, but he emphasized that these types of conditions for boarding flights could push more people to get vaccinated and that’s a desirable outcome.
“When you make vaccination a requirement, that’s another incentive to get more people vaccinated," Fauci said. "If you want to do that with domestic flights, I think that’s something that seriously should be considered."
The U.S. currently mandates that most foreign nationals traveling to the U.S. be fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, but has not instituted one for domestic travel.
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The administration has at times considered a domestic vaccination requirement, or one requiring either vaccination or proof of negative test, but two officials said Biden’s science advisers have yet to formally make the recommendation to the president. The officials noted they have not been eager to mandate vaccination for domestic air travel because they expected it to immediately face legal challenges, mitigating its potential effectiveness as a tool to drive up vaccinations.
Biden’s employer vaccination requirements have been mired in legal wrangling, with the Supreme Court set to hear arguments in early January in cases seeking to overturn them.
Meanwhile, New York City’s sweeping mandate requiring nearly all private-sector businesses to ban unvaccinated employees from the workplace has taken effect amid a spike in coronavirus infections.
Workers at roughly 184,000 businesses were required to show proof they have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by Monday. Businesses that don’t comply could face fines starting at $1,000, but Mayor Bill de Blasio has said imposing penalties will be a last resort.
Employers have to verify and keep a record of each worker’s proof of COVID-19 vaccination. Workers who have only received one shot will have to get a second one within 45 days. Companies must display a sign affirming they are complying with the rule “in a conspicuous location,” under the city’s mandate.