Say goodbye to the summer wind. It’s October and the season’s changed. Yankee and Met fans settle in for a long nap. Football, basketball, and hockey now rule. The kids are back in school hopefully, and the clocks will go back again soon. During the spring and early summer, it was starting to look good, especially in New York, as we thought we had a handle on Covid. Then we, unfortunately, took big steps backward. Our hopes for the end of the pandemic were dashed when this variant hit America hard. Too many remained unvaccinated, and the hospitals and ICUs continue to fill to breaking points. People are still dying from Covid-19 everyday.
We all want normal again. The government and employers are done fooling around and now are mandating vaccines or weekly negative Covid tests. The burden of the cost of the medical care for those who got Covid and the ongoing testing has hit our Welfare fund hard. Almost $11 million in testing costs alone and approximately $60 million in medical and hospital costs. It’s sad that 40% of the hospitalizations have come in 2021 after the vaccinations were available.
Then consider the loss of income from Covid-related unemployment, quarantines, having to stay home because the kids couldn’t go to school. In 2020, our construction members earned $230 million less in wages than in the previous year, with a loss of 4.5 million man-hours. In 2021 through August we are a little better off but compared to 2019 we are still down $170 million in wages and worked 3.1 million less man-hours. That has had a big negative impact on not just the medical fund, but all the funds.
It seems unconscionable that the membership should bear this financial burden that would be unnecessary if all our members were just vaccinated. Again, more and more agencies and owners are mandating vaccinated-only workers, and the work opportunity will shrink for those who choose not to get the shot. It’s on them, I pray that as the seasons change so will they. Wear your mask, not just on Halloween, protect the kids and enjoy the beauty of fall.