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Surgeon General Just Issued This COVID Warning

The top doctor said the best way to not get COVID is to get vaccinated.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

During a busy coronavirus news week—which included parents getting vaccines for their kids aged 5 to 11 and the development of two pills proven effective as therapeutics—there was news that concerned experts: Legal challenges to a planned mandate for companies with more than 100 employees to get vaccines, and cases plateauing (not going down) and stuck at 75,000 a day. With this in mind, Dr. Vivek Murthy, the nation's Surgeon General, appeared on This Week opposite Martha Raddatz to tell you how to be safe, and he had a warning. Read on for five essential points that can save your life—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


Surgeon General Said Business Mandates Work and Should be Enforced

A woman displays her vaccination card and the

A court just put a temporary hold on President's Biden rule that businesses with more than 100 employees should mandate vaccines for their employees (scheduled to go into effect by January 4th). Dr. Murthy said, despite legal challenges, "the president and the administration wouldn't have put these requirements in place that they didn't think that they were appropriate and necessary," he said. "And the administration is certainly prepared to defend them. But let's step back for a moment and just look at why these are so important throughout our history. We've seen that we have used the vaccine requirements to protect the population started back when George Washington, in fact, when he required troops to be inoculated for a smallpox—late 1800s, schools started having vaccine and requirements. When you think about the workplace in particular, it's so important that our workplaces are safe. That workers feel safe there, that customers also feel safe. And we know that at this point in the pandemic, when we've come so far, but we still have 75,000 cases a day, and it's important. We take every measure possible to make our workplace safer. It's good for people's health. It's good for the economy. And that's why these requirements make sense."


Surgeon General Said COVID is Hurting the Economy, Not Mandates

Two exhausted and desperate surgeons.

"What's your response to those who say this is an overreach and, and will hurt the economy?" asked Raddatz about the business mandates. "I'll tell you what I hear time and time again, from small businesses, large businesses and workers is that what's really hurting the economy is actually COVID itself," said Dr. Murthy. "Millions of workers have gotten sick because of COVID and unpredicted predictably been pulled out of work millions more that had to be quarantined and think about how disruptive that's been to businesses. And one of the reasons why you see thousands of companies actually already moving forward with requirements even before the federal deadline was because they've realized how important and helpful it is for the health of their workers and for the health of their businesses to have everyone vaccinated. Finally, just keep this in mind. These are not new, you know, in, in addition to having done these, historically in modern times, we can require vaccines for the military. We've required vaccines in hospital systems. The ones that I worked in as well, there are times where we recognize that our decisions have a broader effect on people around us. COVID does reminded us of that. And that's why having these types of requirements and workplaces will be not only helpful, but it's a necessary step to accelerate our pathway out of the pandemic."

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Surgeon General Said "Nothing is Off the Table" and That Vaccines Will Get Us Closer to the "Finish Line"

Doctor vaccinating female patient in clinic.

Might smaller companies also be required to mandate the vaccine in the future? "Certainly nothing is up at table at this moment," said Dr. Murthy, but added "that the focus right now is on te implementing the current rule that OSHA pronounced. Let me just emphasize that these rules actually work. What we've seen in a report issued recently was that on average businesses with these requirements in place, had 20% increase in vaccination rates, often boosting them into the 90s. So if we realize that we've had over the past year, that vaccination is our one of our key pathways out of this pandemic. These requirements, we'll do a lot to get us to where the finish line."

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Surgeon General Said "a Therapeutic Pill is Not a Substitute for Getting Vaccinated

Doctor holding syringe in hospital.

One new antiviral COVID pill can reduce death "by 89% in high risk individuals," said Raddatz, who wondered about the impact. "Well, that was certainly very good news, Martha," said Murthy, who mentioned pills from Merck and Pfizer. "Keep in mind that this these trials were that Pfizer announced recently, these were young people who are higher risk and it reduced their risk of hospitalization and death by 89%," said Murthy. "But two critical things to keep in mind here. One is that these medicines still have to be fully evaluated by the FDA before they're made available. But the second is that there is a 100% effective strategy to avoid hospitalization and death. And that's not getting COVID in the first place, which is why taking appropriate precautions and getting vaccinated still must be at the heart of our strategy. A therapeutic a pill is not a substitute for getting vaccinated."

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How to Stay Safe Out There

Brunette woman wearing a KN95 FPP2 mask.

Follow the public health fundamentals and help end this pandemic, no matter where you live—get vaccinated ASAP; if you live in an area with low vaccination rates, wear an N95 face mask, don't travel, social distance, avoid large crowds, don't go indoors with people you're not sheltering with (especially in bars), practice good hand hygiene, and to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Alek Korab
Alek Korab is a Co-Founder and Managing Editor of the ETNT Health channel on Eat This, Not That! Read more