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Reappraise Your Mindset Like a Big Wave Surfer
Reappraise the small ripples of everyday life so you're ready to face those bigger waves when they roll in.
newsweek.com
Moms come to woman’s rescue after tearful postpartum depression video goes viral: ‘I could use some friends’
Juana Witty, from Glasgow, Kentucky, posted a video on TikTok last month where she reached out to her followers for help during her struggles with postpartum depression.
foxnews.com
The ‘Love Is Blind’ success stories dish on marriage ‘After the Altar’
Two of the 'Love is Blind' couples share how they actually make marriage work after meeting under the show's crazy circumstances
nypost.com
Fiji retain rugby sevens gold medal with victory over New Zealand at Tokyo Olympics
Wednesday was in its twilight hours in Fiji, but Fijians were just beginning to party, with videos popping up on social media of groups of locals taking to the streets to dance and sing.
edition.cnn.com
As Eviction Moratorium Expires, Americans Owe $20 Billion in Unpaid Rent
More than 15 million people in the U.S. are at risk of being evicted when the nationwide ban on evictions ends on July 31, a new report has warned.
newsweek.com
The Technology 202: China is doing what the U.S. can’t seem to: regulate its tech giants
The sudden crackdown has spooked investors. But it may not be as destructive as it seems.
washingtonpost.com
State lawmakers work to strip old 'whites only' covenants
The nation’s reckoning on race has given new momentum to efforts to help U.S. homeowners somehow disassociate their properties with historic, racially restrictive property covenants
abcnews.go.com
The Cybersecurity 202: Biden plans to expand government’s role protecting key industries from cyberattacks
The new government cyber rules will be voluntary to start, but the administration is looking at making them mandatory.
washingtonpost.com
Mena Suvari explains how she turned to meth, other hard drugs to cope with childhood sexual trauma
Mena Suvari opened up about her past use of meth and the Hollywood party lifestyle.
foxnews.com
15 of Italy's best luxury hotels that are well worth the indulgence
From the lakes to the beaches, why not truly indulge with these luxury experiences at some of Italy's best hotels?      
usatoday.com
To Achieve Herd Immunity, We Must Address Fragile Supply Chains in the Developing World
We have to refrain from implementing a cookie-cutter approach.
newsweek.com
The Best Thing to Happen to Museums in the Pandemic
All museums need virtual docents.
slate.com
The endless expansion of the American beverage aisle
So-called “functional” beverages are meant to make our lives better. Can they really? | Getty Images/iStockphoto The American beverage aisle is overflowing, with no sign of letting up. The fall of my first semester of college, I discovered kombucha. I would grab a glass bottle of the fermented tea from the school store and drink it in my room after class. I savored each drop, convinced by its gut health promise that I was healing myself from the torment of dining hall food. Evidently, it was a trend that had taken a bit to reach me on the East Coast. A friend of mine from California had already been long acquainted with the concept, so much so that she learned to cultivate the Scoby — the symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast needed to kick off kombucha — in her dorm closet. If I thought about the process for too long, it made me squirm, but in my mind it was the cost of health, so I kept chugging along. The typical grocery aisle is oversaturated with an endless number of beverage options. Americans have no lack of choices in this arena, where every brand makes some implicit promise to would-be consumers. They say “drink me:” our product can make you healthy or thin or in control or smart or beautiful or interesting or some combination of attributes that can’t exactly be quantified. We can sip our way to better selves, if we only purchase the right thing. In the same way capitalism has convinced so many of us in our professional and personal lives, there is no such thing as rest or leisure — purpose can only be found through work and function. At this cultural moment, drinking for drinking’s sake is considered a waste of time — people want their beverages to do something. As a result, we’ve created an entire category of “functional” beverages that claim to have the ability to make us better in every single way, from our brains to our beauty. Beverages must play an active role in our lives, and assist us in achieving self-determined goals. These drinks help us in other ways, too, telegraphing to the world that we’re health-conscious, with their symbolic power as potent as their health benefits. Through a variety of aesthetics, claims, and cool factors, beverage brands are able to attract buyers, and often can convert them into longtime believers. Much of the time, it’s unclear if these ready-to-drink beverages can actually do what they say they will, but that doesn’t really matter. We buy in and hope for the best anyway, as we’ve always done. View this post on Instagram A post shared by Liquid Death (@liquiddeath) In America, our unquenchable thirst begins in childhood. The current state of the beverage space cannot be separated from the sly marketing campaigns that were waged on our brains before they were even fully developed. We know that we’ve been poisoned by candy-colored promises, by corn syrup, and by a faulty food pyramid that lasted decades. Generation after generation of consumers has been inundated with food and beverage products shined up with celebrity and cartoon endorsements, but shrouded in confusion when it came to actual nutritional information. The 1980s were dominated by children’s programs that, due to marketing deregulation, were essentially just advertisements. With no barriers and impressionable minds tuned in, television shows and commercials became aggressive in their pursuit of children’s purchasing power. The Children’s Television Act in 1990 sought to mitigate this onslaught, but the damage had already been done, though today more children’s programming is required to be explicitly educational. Andrea Hernandez, a food and beverage trend analyst and writer of Snaxshot, an industry newsletter, tells me that the effects of past marketing efforts have been more impactful than we ever could have predicted. “Our generation grew up at a time where our parents were being sold on convenience, and not necessarily the healthiest thing,” she said. Often, products that were pushed as healthy were deceptively not. Consumers gladly gave into the illusion. For example, sales of Vitaminwater — marketed as a healthy choice, with “vitamin” right in the name — were sky-high in the early 2000s, jumping from $350 million in annual sales to over $1 billion when Coca-Cola acquired the brand in 2007. The beverage actually has 32 grams of sugar per bottle, which is only 50 percent less sugar than a can of Coke. Although that’s better in some ways than drinking a soda, its misleading marketing relies on the idea that drinkers are just having fortified water. At this cultural moment, drinking for drinking’s sake is considered a waste of time — people want their beverages to do something It’s a strategy that worked in the early 2000s, but over time, the smoke and mirrors became more obvious. Consumers eventually caught on; more health information was accessible on the internet, and new children’s health initiatives began across the country. Instead of changing their formulas, brands saw their opportunity to step in and change the narrative about their products. “There was money to be made in catering to that unfulfilled niche, which was, ‘We’re looking for better options,’’ Hernandez said. With the rise of the internet, health consciousness began to increase, and consumers began to look for brands that would meet their new standards. This shift meant an impending breakup with a longtime staple product: soda. Sales started to fall off around 2005, despite Americans’ enduring allegiance to fizz and caffeine. Consumers were interested in a change, and the market responded with a larger focus on sparkling waters. La Croix, the sparkling water brand that began in the 1980s as a counter to fancy European water brands, became wildly popular with millennials by the mid-2010s, and darted between lowbrow and highbrow consumer tastes. Eventually, Big Beverage released a slew of other sparkling drinks to fill demand. In the process, La Croix became the cool thing it stood against, but then was obliterated by copycats. They paved the way, but couldn’t come along for the ride. Now there’s dozens of status sparkling waters, all with their own cult followings. According to findings from 2015 to 2018, tap, bottled, carbonated, uncarbonated, and bottled water accounted for more than half of non-alcoholic beverage consumption by adults in the United States. In 2020, the global sparkling water market was valued at $29.7 billion, and it is expected to grow by almost 13 percent by 2028. One recently launched brand called United Sodas is a minimalist, Technicolor collection of caffeine-free, low-calorie carbonated water drinks. They stray from traditional soda flavors, and instead sell unusual picks like toasted coconut and blackberry jam. Liquid Death, a particularly cult-y water brand with highly devoted fans, claims it will “murder” the thirst of its drinker, and specifically carbonates its product at a similar level to beer. Gimmicks and twists like these can be easily added to sparkling water, and entice consumers to try it out, without feeling too guilty about calories or sugar. Instead of leaving their premises ambiguous, beverage brands now operate by being extremely transparent with consumers. However, it’s still a kind of diversion to entice buyers and sway them to pick their product over another. Dairy didn’t make it out of this beverage shift unscathed either. A steady decline in milk consumption in the 2010s led to Dean Foods, the country’s largest dairy processor, to file for bankruptcy by 2019. The growing popularity of alternative milk options proved that Americans weren’t closed off to new ideas, especially ones that were considered healthier. Plant-based options like almond, coconut, and oat milk sales grew by 61 percent between 2012 and 2017. With water on the rise and dairy out of the way, the spotlight was primed for the ever-expanding beverage market to fulfill new needs and niches. But while the current state of the American beverage aisle might appear to be an oasis of options, in some ways it’s a mirage, too. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines sugar-sweetened beverages, or SSBs, as including but not limited to “regular soda (not sugar-free), fruit drinks, sports drinks, energy drinks, sweetened waters, and coffee and tea beverages with added sugars.” Increasing concerns about health might encourage us to try and make better choices, but a lot of the market harbors SSBs in sheep’s clothing. Regardless, Big Beverage knows how easily enamored Americans are with quick fixes. Most problems cannot be solved with a sip of the perfect concoction, and yet, we continue to put our faith into bottles. The industry gambled: What if beverages were presented not only as speed boosts to health and wellness, but as extensions of our selves and our worth? The bet paid off. Even though the pandemic hurt disposable income worldwide, the food and beverage industry was still projected to grow. View this post on Instagram A post shared by Recess (@takearecess) In 2016, PepsiCo bought KeVita, the probiotic drink brand, for over $200 million. The soft drink giant was cashing in on the health-conscious shift in consumer interest that was beginning to take hold across the country. The beverage space was changing rapidly in a variety of ways that were bigger than just kombucha. It was becoming clear that wellness was important to customers on a large-scale, lifestyle-change level. Consumers came to realize the failings of the first iteration of ready-to-drink beverages. The -ades, juice pouches, diet colas, and their ilk could not sustainably remain en vogue, not while obesity rates rose and soda taxes began to be proposed. Consumers absorbed these new beverage trends, although they can’t be entirely reduced to that. As Hernandez explains, these aren’t simply trends. She calls it the “Goopification” of longstanding native or Indigenous cultural traditions. “You start to see whitewashing and the mass appeal of these wellness ‘trends’ that really have existed for a while,” she said. “What’s novel is the way that we’re being sold back that knowledge at a premium.” Yerba mate, a caffeine-containing plant from South America used in Indigenous traditions, has been trendy before, but is currently having a resurgence with young people as a coffee alternative. The biggest yerba mate brand, Guayakí, has used event marketing in the past to push the product to students. Now, competitors like Yerbaé sparkling water use brand ambassadors and fun, colored packaging to attract customers, giving yerba mate a modern update. But the fact remains that American consumers view them as trends, and nobody wants to miss out on the next big thing. KeVita came in at the perfect time: The gut health market in the United States is projected to be worth almost $6 billion by 2024. The company’s co-founder and former CEO, Bill Moses, went on to create the hipster-y Flying Embers, which sells both hard seltzer and hard kombucha. Flying Embers is also capitalizing on another functional wellness trend: mushrooms, which my colleague Terry Nguyen reported on back in April. The brand currently has two mushroom beer options. Beverages can be an accessible way to experiment with sometimes-intimidating wellness movements — from ingredients like mushrooms to probiotics to apple cider vinegar regimens. Bragg, the apple cider vinegar brand, has responded to ACV’s newfound popularity as a health aid by releasing “refresher” prebiotic drinks. Not all wellness trends are appropriative, exactly — some are much more about vibes. That means packaging matters, big time. The physical look of a beverage can make or break its consumer appeal. You’ve probably scrolled past Kin on your social media feeds before. The brand produces “euphoric” readymade non-alcoholic drinks and aperitifs that are housed in gorgeous cans and bottles. However, their dreamy aesthetic comes at a cost. Kin’s latest calming creation, Lightwave, involves ingredients like reishi mushroom, birch bark extract, L-tryptophan, and runs $27 for four 8-ounce cans of the stuff. Brands know that consumers will pay a pretty penny for products that look great on Instagram. Look at the ’60s and ‘70s typeface trend that has taken over. Attractive products are more fun to show off online. Other so-called “functional” beverages tend to have softer, calmer branding that is meant to mirror how the consumer will feel drinking it, and vary from abstract to minimalist vibes. Alicia Kennedy reported for Eater in 2019 that functional beverages like Recess, a hemp-based drink brand, were “typically dressed in soothing pastels that set them apart from the bold primary colors of a Coca-Cola or Red Bull ... exemplars of millennial-focused branding, with an Instagram-friendly aesthetic that targets overworked young women seeking out brief moments of ‘self-care’ as an alternative to traditional medicine.” They’d sprung up, she explained, in the “wake of the so-called anxiety economy.” According to information from Recess, retail sales went up 60 percent since the start of the pandemic, a time in which many consumers might have felt they needed extra help to calm down. View this post on Instagram A post shared by Kin Euphorics (@kineuphorics) It’s not just branding though; the wellness buzzwords contained in each can and bottle are paramount, even if they’re not always super legible to consumers. Ingredients like nootropics, which are defined as anything that aids the brain to focus, and adaptogens, which are defined as natural chemicals or herbs that help the body adapt to stressors, have been gaining traction. There’s a sugar-free, zero-calorie drink called “Confidence” that claims to give its drinker exactly that, through an adaptogenic vitamin blend meant to lower stress and anxiety levels. Two of its ingredients, GABA and 5-HTP, sound more like parts of a cyborg than something you’d typically find in a beverage. The brand calls the product “the future of feeling,” but it feels like all of these new wave drinks have the same aim: We’re looking to chill the hell out. “I’ve talked to a lot of people that get into CBD drinks and then they feel disappointed because they’re like, ‘I don’t know what I should have felt.’ There’s a lot of vagueness,” Hernandez said. For all the commotion about nootropics, for example, caffeine is actually considered a nootropic. “There’s a lot of confusion as to what adaptogens and nootropics are. A lot of people tell me, ‘I don’t even know what an adaptogen is.’ They’re just going for pretty packaging,” she said. Americans demand options; we believe it to be our right. The beverage aisle is clear evidence of this. The sheer number of sugars, electrolytes, and caffeine options we have access to grows more overwhelming every year. Yet, the availability of choice has not made it any easier to choose what to drink, or to sustain our access to those options. Almond milk is a case study in what happens when an alternative beverage option loses its original mission. At this point, it is not that much more sustainable than cow’s milk, due to high demand and the amount of water the process demands. Táche, a pistachio milk brand, comes in cutesy, mint green packaging and says it uses 75 percent less water to grow an ounce of pistachios than it takes to produce the same amount of almonds (in California, to grow that ounce of almonds, the process demands 97 gallons of water). It is meant to be a product solution to a product that was also supposed to be a solution. Many beverages are like this. They attempt to fix the errors of previous beverages, but inevitably another beverage appears to try and outdo them, too. Many attempt to fix the errors of previous beverages, but inevitably another beverage appears to try and outdo them, too It’s clear that this new class of beverages is not that different from the old kind. The invention of soda led to the invention of diet sodas. The invention of sugar-sweetened beverages led to the invention of sugar-free beverages. Popular use of coffee leads to popular use of caffeine alternatives, and the popular use of alcohol leads to the popular use of alcohol-free drinks and alcohol alternatives. Sustainability issues lead us to look for alternatives, which eventually we also make unsustainable. Beverages beget other beverages. It’s a liquid ouroboros. Consumers increasingly want beverages that won’t leave them feeling wired, like a Red Bull, but wouldn’t be as inappropriate as a mid-workday margarita. These in-betweeners are taking over the market, and they toe the line between product and religion. Faith fuels a lot of beverage popularity — if consumers believe it is helping them, then on some level it probably will. Holistically angled ingredients can be marketed with ease in direct opposition to the sugary, additive-laden choices of the past. We think these beverages can change our lives — fix our bodies, our minds, and our feelings. Every buzzword and trend entices us, like “diet” and “zero” did before. It all feels a little bit like the “organic” and “superfood” label booms of the early 2010s, which only continue to grow — lest we forget that period of time when acai and coconut water drinks were everywhere. Sure, this stuff is supposed to be good for you, but how and why exactly is a bit harder to answer on a demonstrable level. At the end of the day, we only technically need water to survive. But instead of admitting that drinks can just be fun, we invented new reasons to consume them. Utilitarianism works sometimes in the beverage space — remember Soylent? But finding something to fix in ourselves, even when there’s nothing broken, may be proof that something else is broken. We’ve all been convinced that the enjoyment of empty calories should be shameful, not celebratory. The previous beverage market has given way to this one, and like its predecessors, the current beverage market will also be dismantled. It’s a cycle we have no intention of stopping. This new market will ultimately produce a new future market, as we invent more reasons to drink and new health trends emerge. But we are chasing a high that we cannot replicate without bending over backward to market beverages new and old. There’s nothing inherently wrong with consumer patterns when it comes to imbibing, but there’s an element of denial present. Nobody wants to admit that drinking something can just be functionally useless fun. The market has directly responded to that consumer denial. Beverages have become just another way for people to signal allegiance to a certain lifestyle or to tell ourselves that we are working toward something better. But our faith in the beverage industry has mostly survived so long because we are in denial about what gives us pleasure. Instead of collectively admitting that we love drinks — on a social and emotional level that is hard to compare to anything else — we would rather fool ourselves into believing that drinks can fix us.
vox.com
The Owners kept the Black Cat alive in more ways than one
The band of veteran club staffers perform inside their workplace on Friday night.
washingtonpost.com
China’s #MeToo movement keeps rising — despite censorship and misogyny
The #MeToo movement has miraculously shaped a broad feminist community and launched fierce debates on women’s rights time and time again.
washingtonpost.com
A falling stock? Donald Trump-backed candidate loses U.S. House race to GOP's Jake Ellzey
Susan Wright, widow of Rep. Ron Wright, had the endorsement of former President Donald Trump in the special election. What does her loss mean?      
usatoday.com
Gunman opens fire in broad daylight in New York City, forcing woman pushing baby stroller to flee
A gunman in Brooklyn was seen on surveillance video opening fire in broad daylight, forcing a woman pushing a baby stroller to flee the area.
foxnews.com
Meet Jade Carey: Simone Biles’ replacement in all-around competition
Simone Biles' withdrawal from the individual all-around competition to focus on her mental health has opened the door for another US gymnast.
nypost.com
Joe Manchin Saw Huge Surge in Donations During Debate on For the People Act
The moderate Democrat from West Virginia finished the second quarter of 2021 with more than $3.9 million of cash on hand.
newsweek.com
Saving California's kelp forests from "zombie" urchins
California's underwater forests have suffered a devastating decline. Now, the race is on to save them before it's too late.
edition.cnn.com
Netflix’s ‘Love Is Blind: After The Altar’ spoilers are heartbreaking
Warning: Spoilers ahead -- here are the juiciest dramatic moments from "After the Altar."
nypost.com
Reba McEntire Entertains Internet by Joining in on Viral Soundtrack Trend
The actress hit over 13 million views on her video after doing her part in the popular TikTok trend that hilariously uses the "Reba" theme tune.
newsweek.com
Holly Madison recalls body dysmorphia struggle during Playboy days: 'I thought my thighs were huge'
Holly Madison is opening up about the effects body dysmorphia can have on one's psyche.
foxnews.com
Woman's lengthy, considerate bridal party survey gets praise: 'Every bride should do'
In a world where bridezilla stories dominate headlines, there’s one bride-to-be who has won over TikTok with her considerate wedding planning tips.
foxnews.com
Pfizer data suggest third dose of Covid-19 vaccine 'strongly' boosts protection against Delta variant
A third dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine can "strongly" boost protection against the Delta variant -- beyond the protection afforded by the standard two doses, suggests new data released by Pfizer on Wednesday.
edition.cnn.com
Showdown vs. Netherlands could offer a new start for Alyssa Naeher and the USWNT
USWNT goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher can't be blamed for the team's Tokyo Olympic struggles, and she's approaching her predecessors in the record book.
latimes.com
Police Attending Noise Complaint Find Cat Had Turned On Stereo When Alone
The owner of the property was away from his residence as the music was loudly played in the early hours of Sunday morning.
newsweek.com
Iranian defector wins judo silver medal, dedicates win to Israel
An Iranian defector who won the Olympic silver medal for Mongolia in judo has dedicated it to Israel – saying “Thank you” in Hebrew for the country’s support.
nypost.com
Collapsed Lung Causes, Treatments Explained As YouTuber Steven Crowder Hospitalized
Conservative political commentator tweeted on Wednesday: "Last night took a turn for the worse. Ever actually get so close that you can physically feel death?"
newsweek.com
Colby Covington accuses Kamaru Usman of PED use ahead of UFC 268 rematch
Colby Covington is adamant that Kamaru Usman has been taking performance-enhancing drugs throughout his career.       Related StoriesColby Covington accuses Kamaru Usman of PED use ahead of UFC 268 rematch - EnclosureVideo: Which performance at UFC on ESPN 27 stood out the most?Injured Tatiana Suarez off UFC 266; Diaz protégé among new additions to card 
usatoday.com
Jake Ellzey wins runoff election for Texas' 6th district
This marks the first time that a candidate Mr. Trump endorsed has lost an election since the former president left office.
cbsnews.com
Toyota restricting exports of Land Cruiser SUV due to security concerns
Toyota is requiring Land Cruiser buyers to pledge not to export their vehicles, in part due to concerns that they could end up in the hands of terrorists.
foxnews.com
Thwart top phone hackers with one simple step
As a member of the secretive Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. Angus King has reason to worry about hackers. At a briefing by security staff this year, he said he got some advice on how to help keep his cellphone secure.
foxnews.com
Tokyo Olympic cyclist Tom Dumoulin might serve as an example for Simone Biles
Tom Dumoulin, who walked away from cycling in part because of mental health struggles, might serve as an example of what's possible for Simone Biles.       
usatoday.com
Feds conduct South Florida raids amid probe of Haitian president’s assassination
Federal agents have reportedly raided several locations in South Florida as part of a sweeping investigation into the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse.
nypost.com
Masked gunman sprays Brooklyn street, striking man as woman pushing stroller flees
A 53-year-old man was hit in the right foot and was taken to Methodist Hospital in stable condition, the NYPD said.
nypost.com
House physician reinstates mask mandate amid Delta variant spread in the US
The US House is reinstating its mask mandate as the Delta variant emerges as the dominant strain of Covid across the country and in light of the new US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance, the House attending physician announced Tuesday.
edition.cnn.com
QAnon Las Vegas Event Adds Two Republican Lawmakers As 'Special Guests'
The QAnon event has drawn several Republican figures who are set to attend, alongside supporters of the still popular conspiracy theory.
newsweek.com
GOP Rep. Clyde stands by comparison of Jan. 6 mob to ‘tourists’ when pressed by Democratic Rep. Raskin
Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) pressed his Republican colleague from Georgia on comments made in May. The spirited exchange comes after police officers testified about the violent attack by a mob of Trump supporters.
washingtonpost.com
Rick Aiello of 'Do the Right Thing', Danny Aiello's son dead at 63
Actor Danny Aiello’s son Rick has died after a battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 63.
foxnews.com
Hawley: Biden Administration Plan Is Amnesty, to Dismantle ICE -- and They Are Executing on It
Tuesday on FNC's "The Ingraham Angle," Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) warned the Biden administration at the direction of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas was in the process of setting up amnesty for illegal aliens in this country and dismantling Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
breitbart.com
‘Summer House’ stars Kyle Cooke, Amanda Batula re-launch popular cocktail
The couple is relaunching their espresso martini this week.
nypost.com
Daniil Medvedev warns ‘I can die’ during scary extreme heat moment at 2021 Olympics
Daniil Medvedev was struggling so much with the suffocating heat and humidity that the chair umpire asked him if he could continue playing.
nypost.com
Don Lemon blasts man who harassed Tucker Carlson in viral video
CNN anchor Don Lemon ripped the man who accosted Tucker Carlson in a Montana fly fishing shop, saying he had no right to invade the Fox News host's "personal space."
nypost.com
Mandate the vaccine, not masks
A pharmacy advertises the Covid-19 vaccine in Brooklyn, New York. Mayor de Blasio will require all city workers to be vaccinated or tested weekly for Covid-19. | Spencer Platt/Getty Images Vaccines are the solution to Covid-19. Let’s make the most of them. All of a sudden, it looks like masks may have to be put back on. With the rise of the delta variant and a rapid increase in Covid-19 cases, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is calling on vaccinated people to wear masks indoors again in places where the virus is quickly spreading. At least some school districts will likely require masks this fall. Local governments, from Massachusetts to California, are reviving mask mandates. A year ago, requiring masks as cases spiked would have been an obviously smart decision. Mask mandates work, and for most of 2020, they were among the best methods we had to stop the spread of Covid-19. But masks were never meant to be the long-term solution; they were a stopgap until the US and the rest of the world could stamp out epidemics through vaccination. Now those vaccines are here. And the changed circumstances of summer 2021 call for new approaches. Any entity thinking about a mask requirement — from private businesses to local, state, and federal governments — should consider mandating something else first: vaccination. Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images Demonstrators opposed to the Covid-19 vaccination and to mandates by governments hold a “freedom” rally in New York City on July 24. Unvaccinated people, whether they’re apathetic or resistant, are the reason the coronavirus remains a threat in the US. The country and everyone concerned about the rising case rate should do everything in their power to push these people to get a shot. The federal government could require vaccination for its own employees, as President Joe Biden is reportedly considering, and offer incentives, financial or otherwise, for others to do the same. Local and state governments could require vaccines for their employees, health care workers, schools, and public spaces, from restaurants to museums. Even without any government support, private organizations could act alone, requiring vaccinations for their employees and, ultimately, proof of vaccination for anyone on their premises. The US Department of Justice seemed to clear the way recently for vaccine mandates, declaring in a recent memo that “entities” can impose vaccine requirements for shots authorized under emergency use without full federal approval. And some government agencies, including New York City, California, and the US Department of Veteran Affairs, are now requiring public employees or health care workers to get vaccinated. I’ve been talking to experts about mandating vaccines for months. Earlier this year, when I wrote about vaccine passports, many argued that mandates should only be tried as a last resort — we should try improving access and offering incentives first. Only if those options failed should we rely on the more drastic steps. Well, we’re here. America has made the vaccines much more available to just about everyone who’s eligible. The nation has tried rewards, ranging from free beer to gift cards to a cash lottery, to nudge people to get a shot. Yet we’re stuck. The majority of Americans still aren’t fully vaccinated. It’s time to try that last resort. Vaccine mandates work France has historically been one of the more vaccine-skeptical countries in the West, and it’s struggled more than some of its peers to get people vaccinated. Two weeks ago, the country announced that it would require proof of vaccination for everyday activities, like restaurants and shopping centers. The news of the requirement led to a record rush for vaccine appointments, with 1.3 million people signing up in less than one day. (It also led to some protests.) Israel has used “green passes,” proof of vaccination that’s required for everyday activities like restaurants and movie theaters, for as long as it’s been administering the vaccines. That requirement is cited as a key reason Israel has led much of the world in vaccination: More than two-thirds of its population has received at least one shot; more than 60 percent are fully vaccinated. (The US, by comparison, is less than 57 percent with at least one dose and below 50 percent fully vaccinated.) Israel recently reimposed some masking rules, but only after going hard on vaccination first. Jack Guez/AFP via Getty Images Attendees show off their “green passes” or proof of vaccination as they arrive at a stadium in Tel Aviv. In the US, the Kaiser Family Foundation’s surveys have consistently found for months that about 20 percent of Americans are resistant to getting the vaccines. But even among these resisters, about 30 to 35 percent say they would get the shot if it was required. If a mandate would move even some of the most hardcore skeptics, then it would almost certainly boost vaccination rates across the country, also pushing the other 13 percent of the country who are still in “wait and see” or “as soon as possible” mode to get going. In a follow-up interview, a 51-year-old man who said he would only get the vaccine if it was required told Kaiser he ultimately got it, and did so because he felt he had “limited options without it.” In New York, where he lives, the government has kept some restrictions for the unvaccinated, and employers have required the shot in some places as well. None of this should be surprising. Vaccine mandates have been a part of American public health policy for decades, especially for health care workers and anyone attending school. A 2019 review of the evidence on school mandates found that the requirements “appear largely associated with increased vaccination coverage” (while calling for better studies). And a 2015 review of the evidence on mandates in health care settings found they’re the most effective out of several options to encourage vaccination. Meanwhile, the vaccination rate among American 2-year-olds for diseases like polio and measles — shots required for decades for public school attendance — surpasses 80 or even 90 percent. Schools don’t require students to go through elaborate restrictions or rituals for these other diseases. They just require the vaccine. We can and should learn from that. Universal vaccination would protect all of us There’s also the less empirical case for requiring vaccination: It’s simply the right thing to do. Based on all the evidence, the vaccines really work, including against the variants. The vaccinated may still get infected by the coronavirus, leading to flu-like symptoms. But the vaccines nearly eliminate the risk of hospitalization and death — the real threat of Covid-19 — even with the variants. The reason, then, that mask mandates are now coming into consideration is largely to protect the unvaccinated, who are truly at risk from the virus. As White House medical adviser Anthony Fauci declared in June, the Covid-19 epidemic in the US is really becoming the tale of “two Americas” — the vaccinated and not. A New York Times analysis in June found that places with more than 60 percent of their population vaccinated report about one-third of the cases as those with a lower vaccination rate of 0 to 30 percent. And other data suggests that the current rise in coronavirus cases is almost entirely among the people who haven’t gotten vaccinated, with the new outbreaks hitting the low-vaccination states harder. This presents a conundrum: Places that reinstate mask mandates are effectively asking the vaccinated to care more about unvaccinated people’s risk of Covid-19 than most of these unvaccinated people do (or else they’d get the vaccine). There are important exceptions. Children under 12 are still unable to get the shot (and that will likely force mask mandates in K-6 schools this fall). The immunocompromised may not always get full protection from the vaccines. Yet the best evidence we have indicates these people would also be most protected if everyone who can get vaccinated did so, because it would reduce the spread of the virus. The biggest hurdle to that kind of universal vaccination is no longer access. Vaccines are everywhere: I can, as I write this in Cincinnati, find appointments at multiple grocery stores and pharmacies in the next hour, including in some of the poorest neighborhoods, and appointments aren’t even needed in many of these places. The share of Americans who want to get vaccinated “as soon as possible” but have not is tiny: about 3 percent in June, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation’s surveys. Unvaccinated people, whether they’re apathetic or resistant, are the reason the coronavirus remains a threat in the US There’s more work to be done to make sure people have all of the information they need to get vaccinated and to actually access the shots. But the problem is no longer that people desperately want the vaccine and can’t get it; it’s that people need to be swayed to want it at all. A mask mandate could even work against the vaccine campaign. Some research has found that people can be motivated to get vaccines with the promise that they’ll be able to stop masking up. As one vaccinated 52-year-old told the New York Times, “I just honestly got sick of wearing the mask. We had an event yesterday, and I had to wear it for five hours because I was around a lot of people. And I was sick of it.” Requiring vaccinated people to keep masks removes an incentive for the shot. And it doesn’t address the core problem: People who are eligible for the vaccine are still unvaccinated. That’s what needs to be fixed. If nothing else, all tools — up to and including mandates — should be used to move the unvaccinated before the vaccinated are asked to make more sacrifices. A mandate could be a last resort — but it needs to be an option For some of the population, a vaccine mandate would almost certainly produce a backlash. It could lead some of the resisters to harden in their refusal to get a vaccine, or polarize the US even further. This is what some experts worry about. Jennifer Nuzzo, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, has told me, “You take someone who is generally uncomfortable but willing to have a conversation, and you make it about them and an infringement on their liberties, and then they wind up getting more hardline on their views about the vaccines than they otherwise would have been.” It’s a genuine public health conundrum. A mandate needs to lead to more people getting the shot than otherwise would, not fewer. And while the Kaiser Family Foundation surveys suggest that mandates would lead to more people, on net, getting the shot across the country, that may not be true in every town, city, county, or state. Policymakers can address this by moving slowly, at first requiring public employees, health care workers, and schools to get the vaccine before phasing in mandates to the rest of the population. It may help these will likely be local and state decisions, given that the Biden administration has repeatedly resisted setting up a green pass–like system in the US. Different local and state governments may make different decisions about which settings require vaccination. And mandates should be treated as a last resort: The cities and states that, for example, haven’t tried cash incentives for vaccination could try that first. Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki speaks to reporters on the correlation between deaths and unvaccinated people from the briefing room on July 27. Even with all that, there may still be a backlash. Yet the mask mandates being discussed right now risk a backlash, too, in exchange for a much less permanent solution; many of the same people who refuse to get vaccinated are the same as those who most vehemently refuse to mask up. Ultimately, for cultural or political reasons, some places might not be able to impose a mandate of any kind. But far more could than have tried so far, and far more should try. Even a patchwork system in which you need a vaccine to do some things in some places, but not everywhere to do everything, will push more people to get the shot than today’s reality, where you most likely don’t need a vaccine to do anything at all. Yes, a vaccine mandate, like a mask mandate, infringes on a person’s ability to make their own personal health decisions. But as Brown University School of Public Health dean Ashish Jha previously told me, “Freedom cuts in both directions.” If people’s resistance to getting vaccinated leads to more Covid-19 outbreaks and, worse, the rise of a variant that can overcome existing vaccines, the ensuing caution and restrictions would hinder people’s freedoms far more. That’s what we’re seeing right now as places consider adopting mask mandates again due to outbreaks caused by the unvaccinated. To put the threat of Covid-19 behind us, people need to get vaccinated. As a country, the US has tried just about everything else in the toolbox. Before we go back to 2020’s policy ideas, we should make full use of the best tool we have in 2021.
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