These days, perhaps the only issue more heated than mask-wearing is coronavirus vaccine mandates. Many people adamantly believe that they shouldn't be forced to take a vaccine they don't want. But given that the highly contagious delta variant is causing a widespread surge in COVID-19 cases, to the point where many hospital systems are getting overwhelmed, President Biden seems to have had enough. And now, he's imposing new mandates that could impact real estate investors in a very meaningful -- and positive -- way.
The latest on vaccine requirements
Imposing coronavirus vaccine mandates was a difficult thing to do in the absence of full FDA approval. But now that the Pfizer vaccine has overcome that barrier, President Biden is putting his foot down.
On Sept. 9, the president announced that the Labor Department will start requiring all businesses with 100 or more employees to ensure that their workers are either fully vaccinated or that they get tested for COVID-19 at least once a week. Biden also signed an executive order that requires all government employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19, without the option to undergo testing in lieu of a jab. Plus, healthcare workers at any medical facility receiving Medicare and Medicaid funds must be fully vaccinated.
Now at this point, a large number of companies have already taken steps to impose their own vaccine mandates. United Airlines, for example, is requiring all of its U.S. employees to get vaccinated or risk termination. Tech giants Google and Facebook are forcing employees to get inoculated before returning to the office. And investment banking giant Morgan Stanley's vaccine requirements extend not only to employees, but to clients and guests visiting the company's offices.
The investor takeaway
The coronavirus pandemic has already done a number on many key real estate sectors, from hotels to office buildings. Enforcing vaccine mandates is a good way to help life as we know it get back to normal. And once that happens, real estate investors stand to benefit.
If airlines and hotel chains impose vaccine requirements, it'll make travel a safer prospect, which can benefit hospitality REITs (real estate investment trusts). And if more companies require vaccines, it'll be easier to reopen offices in full, which will benefit office REITs.
In fact, the sooner the pandemic comes to an end (or at least gets better under control), the fewer restrictions the public will have to deal with. And that's generally a good thing for real estate on a whole.
All told, Biden's latest vaccine mandates could cover 100 million Americans, nearly two-thirds of the country's workforce. Companies that don't follow the president's orders will face substantial fines on a per-employee basis, so it's likely that corporate compliance won't be an issue. And while companies will likely be allowed to continue offering exemptions for both religious and medical reasons, Biden's move should be instrumental in either getting more of the U.S. population vaccinated, or helping to curb the spread of COVID-19 before local outbreaks worsen.