FARGO — New cases of COVID-19 are exploding again to the highest numbers since February. Many of the newly infected are children. It didn’t have to be this way. Experts say the primary reason COVID-19 is still raging out of control in the U.S. is because not enough people are getting vaccinated. It’s incomprehensible why they are not.

Sadly, 99.5% of those killed by COVID-19 in recent months were unvaccinated. As President Biden said, “We have a pandemic because of the unvaccinated.” North Dakota has one of the worst vaccination rates in the nation.

So, it’s time to get stricter when it comes to vaccinations. Give people an incentive to get vaccinated or face the consequences. This will make everyone safer.

For example, it’s great to see that Sanford, Essentia and Altru Health systems are requiring their employees to be vaccinated, or risk losing their jobs. That sends the right message about this deadly pandemic. It’s absurd and unprofessional that any doctor or nurse would be unvaccinated. They need to protect themselves and their patients.

Other local medical centers need to do the same. However, this should go far beyond hospitals and clinics. Businesses and schools need to do their part. Unless employees have a medical reason, companies should require their workers to get vaccinated. If you want to keep your job, you get the shots.

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This will not only make for a safer workplace, but also encourage customers to go to these businesses. Facebook, Uber, Disney, the Washington Post and Google are just some of the companies requiring that their employees get vaccinated.

Also, airlines should mandate that their flight crews and all passengers must be vaccinated. This will make for safer planes and encourage passenger travel. United and Frontier Airlines have issued such a requirement for their employees. Likewise, those going to crowded public indoor activities should be vaccinated.

In addition, teachers should be required to be vaccinated, as well as all K-12 students when the vaccine is available for children 12 and under. We require vaccinations against tetanus, measles, and the mumps, so why not COVID-19? Again, exceptions for medical reasons should be allowed. Meantime, vaccinations should be required for all students, faculty and staff on college campuses. Hundreds of colleges across the country (shamefully, none in North Dakota), are already doing that.

In announcing its mandatory vaccination policy, the University of Colorado rightfully said, “The science around COVID-19 and vaccines is clear and compelling. Vaccines are good for public health.”

The Indiana University mandatory vaccination policy was challenged in court, but a judge ruled in favor of the university, stating that the policy is in “The legitimate interest of public health for its students, faculty, and staff.”

It’s time to stop pampering those who have irresponsibly refused to be vaccinated, while many of us who have acted responsibly, have to suffer. It’s time to put COVID-19 behind us, so we can fully return to our normal lives. However, that won’t happen unless more people get vaccinated.

Click here for more from columnist Jim Shaw.

Shaw is a former WDAY TV reporter and former KVRR TV news director. Email jimshawtv@gmail.com