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Delta Air Lines to impose monthly surcharge on unvaccinated workers

Delta Air Lines will impose a monthly $200 surcharge on unvaccinated employees and require them to get weekly COVID tests, CEO Ed Bastian announced in a memo Wednesday.

Why it matters: The move makes Delta the first major U.S. company to impose a monetary penalty on workers who choose to remain unvaccinated, according to Bloomberg.


Driving the news: While 75% of Delta employees are vaccinated, the move is intended to increase vaccination amid heightened concern over the "very aggressive" Delta variant, Bastian said in the memo.

Details: Beginning Sept. 12, unvaccinated employees will be required to take weekly COVID-19 tests so long as case rates remain high.

  • Starting Sept. 30, "COVID pay protection will only be provided to fully vaccinated individuals who are experiencing a breakthrough infection," Bastian added.
  • Starting Nov. 1, unvaccinated employees enrolled in Delta's health care plan will receive $200 monthly surcharges to offset the "financial risk" that remaining unvaccinated creates for the company due to the high costs of hospital COVID-19 care.
  • Delta Air Lines is also imposing an indoor mask mandate for unvaccinated employees effective immediately.

What they're saying: "While we are grateful for the progress we’ve made, the most recent virus variants make it clear that more work remains ahead," Bastian said.

  • "I know some of you may be taking a wait-and-see approach or waiting for full FDA approval. With this week’s announcement that the FDA has granted full approval for the Pfizer vaccine, the time for you to get vaccinated is now."
  • "Protecting yourself, your colleagues, your loved ones and your community is fundamental to the shared values that have driven our success for nearly a century."

The big picture: The new measures stopped short of a full vaccine mandate like the one imposed by United Airlines earlier this month.

Why the startup world needs to ditch "unicorns" for "dragons"

When Aileen Lee originally coined the term "unicorn" in late 2013, she was describing the 39 "U.S.-based software companies started since 2003 and valued at over $1 billion by public or private market investors."

Flashback: It got redefined in early 2015 by yours truly and Erin Griffith, in a cover story for Fortune, as any privately-held startup valued at $1 billion or more. At the time, we counted 80 of them.

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Scoop: Facebook's new moves to lower News Feed's political volume

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Why it matters: The changes could reduce traffic to some news publishers, particularly companies that post a lot of political content.

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Scoop: Amazon quietly getting into live audio business

Amazon is investing heavily in a new live audio feature that's similar to other live audio offerings like Clubhouse, Twitter Spaces and Spotify's new live audio platform, sources tell Axios.

Why it matters: As with Amazon's efforts in podcasting and music subscriptions, the company sees live audio as a way to bolster the types of content it can offer through its voice assistant, Alexa, and its smart speaker products.

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Hurricane Ida exposes America's precarious energy infrastructure

The powerful hurricane that plunged New Orleans into darkness for what could be weeks is the latest sign that U.S. power systems are not ready for a warmer, more volatile world.

The big picture: “Our current infrastructure is not adequate when it comes to these kinds of weather extremes,” Joshua Rhodes, a University of Texas energy expert, tells Axios.

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"We must go further": 70% of adults in European Union are fully vaccinated

About 70% of adults in the European Union are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, said Tuesday.

Why it matters: The milestone makes the E.U. one of the world's leaders in inoculations, after an initially lagging vaccine campaign, the New York Times notes.

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What Elizabeth Holmes jurors will be asked ahead of fraud trial

Jury selection begins today in USA v. Elizabeth Holmes, with the actual jury trial to get underway on Sept. 8.

Why it matters: Theranos was the biggest fraud in Silicon Valley history, putting both hundreds of millions of dollars and thousands of patients' health at risk.

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