The White House announced Thursday that the review and recommendation site Yelp is debuting a new feature to let users search for businesses by their vaccination requirements.
“Businesses know vaccinations are a way to keep their workers and customers safe and to keep their doors open,” Jeffrey Zients, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, said at a news conference.
The new feature will allow users to search on Yelp’s website and mobile app for businesses with fully vaccinated workers and for those that require proof of vaccination to enter.
“We support these vaccination requirements to protect workers, communities and the country,” Zients said.
A Yelp spokeswoman told HuffPost that the company will be “proactively monitoring Yelp pages of businesses that activate these attributes” in order “to help protect businesses that may experience backlash for their vaccination policies.”
“The past year and a half has been like no other,” Yelp Vice President of User Operations Noorie Malik said in a statement. “Both business owners and consumers have expressed interest in Yelp releasing vaccine-related attributes. For many months we’ve seen businesses implement vaccine requirements for both their customers and staff. As a result, we’ve also seen a rise in reviews primarily focused on people’s stance on COVID vaccinations rather than their actual experience with the business.”
At Thursday’s news conference, the White House’s coronavirus response team highlighted increasing vaccination rates, particularly in those regions of the country where COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are spiking.
The picture of the rise of coronavirus cases is particularly grim for the American South. Over the past seven days, Florida and Texas have accounted for about one-third of new cases and more than one-third of new hospitalizations across the country. Seven states that make up just a quarter of the U.S. population ― Florida, Texas, Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi ― account for more than half of new cases and hospitalizations over the past week.
The U.S. saw about 864,000 coronavirus vaccinations go into arms over “the past 24 hours,” according to Zients, who said that figure was the highest single-day total since July 3. The bulk of them ― or around 585,000 ― were first shots.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky told reporters that, despite the increased transmissibility of the delta variant, it still appears the overwhelming majority of severe illness is occurring in unvaccinated people.
In response to rising case counts, businesses, hospitals and educational institutions around the country have been announcing vaccination requirements for their staff, students and others. More than 100 hospital systems around the country are requiring employees to be vaccinated, and nearly 650 colleges and universities are requiring the same of on-campus staff and students, Zients said. Many leaders at the local, state and federal levels ― including President Joe Biden ― have said government workers under their purview will need to be vaccinated or regularly tested, as well.
The American legal system has a history of protecting the right of localities and employers to mandate vaccinations, and the courts have so far upheld such requirements in the COVID-19 era.
Exceptions are generally expected to be made for health or religious concerns.