WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — With the Delta variant looming, some businesses are shifting their tactics.
Cleve Mash is the owner of the Clematis Social nightclub in downtown West Palm Beach. He's trying something new in the fight against COVID-19.
"With the reluctancy of the younger adults not wanting to get the vaccination, we decided that we would offer a $200 cash incentive to every employee, whether they've had the COVID vaccination or whether they're going to have the COVID vaccination," Mash said.
Mash said everyone is still welcome inside, but customers who show proof of vaccination will get free admission.
"The message has to be that more people have to get involved from a private perspective and an education perspective and not so much that we're going to force you to do it," Mash said. "Let's educate and let's give people the incentive to do it."
University of Miami Dr. David Andrews is leading the university's effort to sequence COVID-19 positive samples, which can determine its genetic origins. His group has found three other variants that are starting to make their presence known in South Florida -- the Brazilian variant, now known as Gamma, the Colombian variant, which is dominant in that country, and the Lambda variant, which is currently the dominant COVID-19 strain in Peru.
"It's something we're gonna keep an eye on," Andrews said. "Now, if it goes up and it becomes an increasing proportion compared to Delta, let's say, then that's going to be something that's noteworthy. We just don't know yet."
Andrews said the Delta variant is still the immediate threat to the community.
"If an individual is unvaccinated and they're infected with Delta, now they're infected with a variant that has almost the contagiousness level of chickenpox," Andrews said.
Health experts maintain the best protection against the virus is vaccination.
"I need my staff to be here to open my business," Mash said. "So I cannot afford to have my staff get sick and then be called out, because I don't have a lot of employees. They're hard to come by these days."
Mash said the free admission with proof of vaccination will go on for a long time.
The Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association issued the following statement from President and CEO Carol Dover:
"While COVID cases have increased, Florida businesses are empowered to make the decisions that are best for their guests and staff regarding the use of masks, and patrons are empowered to choose where they want or don’t want to patronize. Our FRLA members have gone above and beyond since the beginning of the pandemic to strengthen their already rigorous safety and sanitation protocols, some even achieving the FRLA Seal of Commitment for their efforts. It is our guidance that hotels and restaurants continue their safety and sanitation procedures to keep guests and staff safe and comfortable doing business there. We also continue our encouragement of vaccinations so that we can all safely resume our daily activities."