The agency that runs the Very Large Array is not backing down from a thorny problem facing all employers.
Come September, all in-person workers for the VLA have to be vaccinated against COVID-19 — or face losing their jobs.
The VLA in Socorro County is a scientific center, devoted to studying the stars and space. It’s also a major employer.
Because so much work is conducted in close quarters, all who come through the buildings must be vaccinated, its bosses decided.
Dr. Tony Beasley, director of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, said he is willing to slow an expansion planned at the VLA to make sure everyone is protected against the coronavirus.
This is the right call if the nation wants to crush the virus.
But it’s hard to do the right thing with a significant portion of the population refusing to be vaccinated.
Nevertheless, an employer can put the good of all above the wishes of a few holdouts. As Beasley said, employees who work closely together need to be confident they aren’t at risk of contracting a serious and potentially fatal disease.
The evidence is clear: Vaccinations work. And experts say the COVID-19 vaccine is the best bet to slow down the mutations and thus blunt the disease.
To move beyond the pandemic, it is crucial the nation focus on stopping the spread.
Naturally, Beasley’s decision is not popular with everyone, with a state representative calling for the VLA to reverse course. Rep. Gail Armstrong, R-Magdalena, believes people should not have to choose between unwanted vaccinations and their jobs.
Unfortunately, that’s not the only choice at play here. Those who refuse to be vaccinated, in effect, are choosing to allow the disease to spread.
In June, more than 9 in 10 Americans who died of COVID-19 were unvaccinated. Cases are rising in nearly half the states with low vaccination rates.
The VLA leadership has made the hard decision to put the welfare of many over the wishes of the few. Medical facilities across the country are doing the same, telling employees either to be vaccinated or lose their jobs. New Mexico hospitals, clinics and doctors’ office need to be transparent about whether all employees are vaccinated.
So do other big employers. The state of New Mexico does not have a policy of mandating vaccines for all employees, but it does require mask-wearing in common areas. The city of Santa Fe has no vaccination requirement and requires masks for anyone without a vaccine. The question, of course, is whether people will be honest about their vaccination status. Santa Fe County has figured out how to deal with the question of honesty — a mask mandate is in place for all unvaccinated employees. Don’t want to wear a mask? Bring in your vaccination card.
The Very Large Array policy is even more straightforward. Get the shot. You have a choice, but be prepared for the consequences. That’s how to beat a pandemic.