We have finally reached the point in the battle with COVID-19 in which reality takes precedence over politics. As The Associated Press reports:
President Joe Biden on Thursday is announcing sweeping new federal vaccine requirements affecting as many as 100 million Americans in an all-out effort to increase COVID-19 vaccinations and curb the surging delta variant that is killing thousands each week and jeopardizing the nation’s economic recovery.
The expansive rules mandate that all employers with more than 100 workers require them to be vaccinated or test for the virus weekly, affecting about 80 million Americans. And the roughly 17 million workers at health facilities that receive federal Medicare or Medicaid also will have to be fully vaccinated.
Biden is also signing an executive order to require vaccination for employees of the executive branch and contractors who do business with the federal government — with no option to test out. That covers several million more workers.
Biden was to announce the new requirements in a Thursday afternoon address from the White House as part of a new “action plan” to address the latest rise in coronavirus cases and the stagnating pace of COVID-19 shots that has raised doubts among the public over his handling of the pandemic.
People may still try to oppose the COVID-19 vaccine on the grounds of religious exemption, but as CNN notes:
No major denomination opposes vaccination. [Pols emphasis] Even the Christian Science Church, whose adherents rely largely on prayer rather than medicine, does not impose an official policy. It counsels “respect for public health authorities and conscientious obedience to the laws of the land, including those requiring vaccination.”
And if a person claims their privately held religious beliefs forbid vaccination, that defense is unlikely to hold up in court if challenged, legal experts say. [Pols emphasis]
The response from right-wing Republicans to news about vaccine requirements was as predictable as it is dangerous. Vaccine mandates from the federal government come at a time when Republican leaders across the country are spending more time and energy fighting people who are trying to stop COVID-19 than working to stop the spread of the virus. Anti-vax radio hosts are literally dying of COVID-19 on a regular basis.
Not all Republicans are opposing vaccines and mask mandates, however. West Virginia Republican Gov. Jim Justice has been apoplectic about people refusing to get vaccinated against COVID-19. Indeed, Republicans used to be more intellectually honest about the need for vaccinations, as this 9News story about a measles outbreak from 2015 notes:
Sen. Cory Gardner and Rep. Mike Coffman both told 9NEWS that ideally there should be a legal requirement for parents to have their children vaccinated against disease. [Pols emphasis]
The argument that receiving a vaccine should be a “personal choice” ignores the reality of our current situation: Unvaccinated Americans are allowing COVID-19 to mutate and spread at alarming rates. We’re seeing more than 160,000 new COVID-19 cases EVERY DAY in this country. Hospitals across the country are rationing care as emergency rooms are overwhelmed with infected patients. The nation’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, warned today that COVID-19 cases in the United States are ten times more prevalent than they should be at this point in a pandemic response.
Here in Colorado, COVID-19 hospitalizations are poised to surpass their highest levels since the beginning of the pandemic. We know that unvaccinated people are exponentially more likely to be hospitalized over a COVID-19 infection. we know that COVID-19 outbreaks in Colorado schools are also approaching record levels.
Health officials and (many) politicians have spent the last 18 months politely trying to convince people to take appropriate caution to stop the spread of COVID-19. We have access to vaccines that we know are working, but information campaigns haven’t been enough to move the sizable percentage of Americans who flat-out refuse to get vaccinated even if it’s just out of spite and a stubborn refusal to take advice from others. At the same time, polling data indicates that vaccine mandates are actually less divisive than you might think.
We tried to be nice about encouraging vaccinations, but the Delta variant changed the equation. The longer people wait to get vaccinated, the longer the entire country (indeed, the world) will continue to suffer the consequences.
In mandating vaccines, President Biden is taking the inevitable step that responsible leadership requires. The COVID-19 virus doesn’t care about your politics; it’s time to start fighting back without one hand tied behind our backs.