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Timothy L. O'Brien

Omicron Should Push Retailers to Deploy Vaccine Mandates

Merchants know that Covid vaccinations save lives. They should act like it. 

Mandates can make shopping safer for workers and customers.

Mandates can make shopping safer for workers and customers.

Photographer: Gabby Jones/Bloomberg

The omicron variant of the Covid-19 virus may appear in the U.S. soon — if it’s not already here — but the country’s retailers still aren’t interested in doing the one thing that would protect millions of workers before it arrives: mandate vaccinations.

It’s the holiday shopping season, of course. Retailers that depend on this stretch to ring up strong annual sales worry that mandates will turn off a big portion of the 665,000 temporary workers they have to hire to move goods. Those temps would supplement about 32 million other more permanent U.S. retail employees. As science and data have already taught us, unvaccinated workers are more vulnerable than vaccinated ones to Covid’s predations. By extension, customers are also safer being served by vaccinated workers.