The Unvaccinated Now

Richard Nixon pushed through the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency – the EPA that all Republicans now hate – because not doing anything had been bad for business. The nation was becoming unlivable. People stayed home and worried. With acid rain turning the Adirondacks into a desert and no one able to breathe in Los Angeles and the Cuyahoga River catching fire in Cleveland, too many people now thought breathable air and relatively clean water were pretty damned important. And breathable air and relatively clean water would be good for businesses too. Very few argued again creating the new agency. Very few dared. This had to be done.

And then Nixon did it again:

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is a large regulatory agency of the United States Department of Labor that originally had federal visitorial powers to inspect and examine workplaces. Congress established the agency under the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act), which President Richard M. Nixon signed into law on December 29, 1970. OSHA’s mission is to “assure safe and healthy working conditions for working men and women by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education and assistance”.

The agency is also charged with enforcing a variety of whistleblower statutes and regulations. OSHA’s workplace safety inspections have been shown to reduce injury rates and injury costs without adverse effects to employment, sales, credit ratings, or firm survival.

And it was about time:

The Bureau of Labor Standards in the Labor Department had covered some work safety issues since 1934. After World War II new and powerful labor unions played an increasingly important role in worker safety. In the 1960s increasing economic expansion again led to rising injury rates, and the resulting political pressures led Congress to establish the Occupational Safety and Health Administration…

So they did that. Democrats were happy. Worker safety would be assured, now by the federal government. No one could cheat. Republicans were happy. Those new and powerful labor unions, that contributed to only Democratic candidates, whose members always voted Democratic, lost leverage. Worker safety was taken off the table. They couldn’t bitch about that any longer. The federal government handled that now. This was the first step in neutering those new and powerful labor unions. The Republicans would make them go away one day.

But time changes everything. The EPA rules are ruining all American businesses! The EPA is ruining America! There’s been decades of that from the Republicans, and now Joe Biden has turned OSHA into a socialist weapon to destroy American freedom!

That’s one way of looking at the New York Times account of his latest decisions:

President Biden on Thursday used the full force of his presidency to push two-thirds of American workers to be vaccinated against the coronavirus, reaching into the private sector to mandate that all companies with more than 100 workers require vaccination or weekly testing.

Mr. Biden also moved to mandate shots for health care workers, federal contractors and the vast majority of federal workers, who could face disciplinary measures if they refuse.

The sweeping actions, which the president announced in a White House speech, are the most expansive he has taken to control the pandemic and will affect almost every aspect of society. They also reflect Mr. Biden’s deep frustration with the roughly 80 million Americans who are eligible for shots but have not gotten them.

“We’ve been patient,” Mr. Biden said in a sharp message to those who refuse to be vaccinated. “But our patience is wearing thin. And your refusal has cost all of us.”

Things are as bad as they’ve been, now with many kids sick with Covid this time. This thing is spreading like wildfire again. Enough is enough:

Initially reluctant to enact mandates, Mr. Biden is now moving more aggressively than any other president in modern history to require vaccination, experts say. In his remarks, he promised to “protect vaccinated workers from the unvaccinated.”

It’s not just the vaccinated workers. Everyone needs to be protected from the unvaccinated. They’re the problem.

“We can and we will turn the tide on Covid-19,” he said.

Even so, Mr. Biden conceded that the mandates would take time to “have full impact.” They are also all but certain to be the subject of legal challenges; already, the largest union representing federal workers has raised questions.

And every Republican governor in every Republican state will sue him. He can’t do this! But of course he can:

Mr. Biden is acting through a combination of executive orders and new federal rules. Under his plan, private-sector businesses that have 100 or more employees will have to require vaccination, or mandatory weekly testing, after the Occupational Safety and Health Administration drafts a rule.

Yes, OSHA will take away your freedom! The vaccine, or weekly testing, or lose your job. That’s it. That’s public safety, or that’s tyranny. And there’s more:

Roughly 17 million health care workers employed by hospitals and other institutions that accept Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement will also face strict new vaccination requirements, as will federal contractors and most federal workers.

And there’s nothing anyone can do about it:

Experts say Mr. Biden has the legal authority to impose vaccine requirements on the private sector, through laws that require businesses to comply with evidence-based federal health safety standards. OSHA, which enforces workplace safety, has already imposed other pandemic precautions, such as a rule in June requiring health care employers to provide protective equipment and adequate ventilation and ensure social distancing, among other measures.

Robert I. Field, a law professor at Drexel University, said that OSHA had the authority to protect workers’ safety, keeping them from being exposed to a potentially deadly virus, by requiring vaccinations.

Lawrence O. Gostin, a Georgetown University law professor who specializes in public health, added: “The president’s plan is bold, audacious and unprecedented. But I do think it’s entirely lawful. He’s on extremely strong legal ground.”

So he’ll act. It’s time to stop this Covid thing right now:

Also on Thursday, Mr. Biden ordered mandatory vaccination for nearly 300,000 educators in the federal Head Start Program and at more than 200 federally run schools. He announced that he would use the Defense Production Act to increase the production of rapid testing kits and would work with retailers, including Amazon and Walmart, to expand their availability. And he said the Transportation Security Administration would now double fines on passengers who refuse to wear masks.

“If you break the rules, be prepared to pay – and by the way, show some respect,” Mr. Biden said, in a salty reference to angry airline passengers who refuse to mask up. “The anger you see on television toward flight attendants and others doing their jobs is wrong. It’s ugly.”

So, don’t be ugly. Or stupid. Or a danger to others. This is deadly serious:

Experts say vaccine mandates are highly effective at preventing the spread of infectious disease; that is why schools require vaccination against measles, mumps and other childhood ailments. Since the announcement on Aug. 25 that the Pentagon would require active-duty military personnel to be vaccinated against Covid-19, the percentage of military members with at least one shot rose from 76.22 percent to 82.96 percent, according to Pentagon data.

Just do it. Everyone else is doing it. Or maybe not:

Mr. Biden is unveiling his plan in a deeply polarized environment around Covid-19 vaccination, and experts seemed split on how effective it will be.

Dr. Georges C. Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, said the actions might be “too little, too late,” and warned that Americans opposed to vaccination might dig in and bristle at being told what to do.

The American Hospital Association was cautious, warning that the moves “may result in exacerbating the severe work force shortage problems that currently exist.”

In short, this will change nothing, and for some, finally agreeing to be vaccinated is committing treason. This is America, not a dictatorship. But there’s also this view:

Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University, said the policy was necessary, and likened it to military service in a time of war.

“To date we have relied on a volunteer army,” Dr. Schaffner said. “But particularly with the Delta variant, the enemy has been reinforced, and now a volunteer army is not sufficient. We need to institute a draft.”

That may be necessary:

Slightly more than half of Americans, 53 percent, are fully vaccinated. The number of people seeking shots ticked up considerably in August, as Delta pushed the country’s daily average caseload over 150,000 for the first time since late January, overwhelming hospitals in hard-hit areas and killing roughly 1,500 people a day.

But the vaccination rate has yet to help the nation cross the threshold of “herd immunity” – the tipping point that occurs when widespread vaccination, coupled with natural immunity, slows the spread of a virus. If it continues to spread, officials fear that it will mutate into another, even more dangerous variant that could evade vaccines.

“When you have 75 to 80 million people who are eligible to be vaccinated, who don’t get vaccinated, you’re going to have a dynamic of continual smoldering spread of the infection,” Mr. Biden’s top medical adviser for the coronavirus pandemic, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, warned in an interview, adding, “It’s very frustrating, because we have the wherewithal within our power to be able to actually suppress it.”

But this is doing something in the end:

The mandate for health care workers will apply to those employed by most institutions that accept Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement, including hospitals, dialysis centers and nursing homes, according to the officials. It will be enforced by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which regulates the health care industry…

The mandates are a marked shift for a president who, mindful of the contentious political climate around vaccination, initially steered away from any talk of requiring vaccines. In late July, he took one step closer to mandates by announcing that federal workers who refused to be vaccinated would have to undergo regular coronavirus testing. But last month’s decision by the Food and Drug Administration to grant full approval to the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to those 16 and older – which also prompted the Pentagon to require its employees to be vaccinated – has strengthened Mr. Biden’s hand.

So it was time to actually do something, even if it was not quite enough:

Mr. Gostin said there was much more the president could do. He has already exercised his executive authority to require masks on airplanes and interstate trains and buses, and could similarly mandate vaccination for international or interstate travel – a step that Mr. Gostin described as “low-hanging fruit.”

One thing Mr. Biden cannot do is require all Americans to be vaccinated; in the United States, vaccinations are the province of the states. But Mr. Gostin said the president could also dangle the prospect of federal funding to prod states to require their own workers to be vaccinated, and his administration could offer technical guidance to states that want to develop so-called vaccine passports for people to provide digital proof of vaccination.

But the president made it clear on Thursday that he would do what he could to “require more Americans to be vaccinated to combat those blocking public health,” a reference to Republican governors who have blocked attempts to mandate masks or require vaccines.

He called them out:

“If they will not help,” Mr. Biden said, “if those governors won’t help us beat the pandemic, I’ll use my power as president to get them out of the way.”

The federal law will be the law that matters now. There’s the Supremacy Clause. Federal law trumps state law. Those are the rules. But of course he’s dealing with this

Dr. Anthony Fauci said Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is “completely incorrect” for asserting the effects of someone’s COVID-19 vaccination status does not extend to others.

DeSantis, who has been vaccinated, acknowledged the efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines in a press conference on Friday but insisted that whether an individual gets vaccinated “doesn’t impact me or anyone else.”

Well, no, not quite:

Fauci shot back on Tuesday.

“If [DeSantis] feels that vaccines are not important for people, that they’re just important for some people, that’s completely incorrect,” Fauci told CNN’s New Day.

“Vaccination has been the solution to every major public health issue in which a vaccine was developed for,” Fauci said, pointing to smallpox and polio. “When you have a virus that’s circulating in the community and you are not vaccinated, you are part of the problem because you’re allowing yourself to be a vehicle for the virus to be spreading to someone else.”

DeSantis says that’s just not so. DeSantis says that’s not how viruses work. He knows how viruses work. Fauci doesn’t know, so DeSantis is doing this:

DeSantis outlawed “vaccine passports” in Florida earlier this year, a public health strategy embraced in jurisdictions such as New York City and San Francisco, arguing that requiring proof of vaccination for certain businesses and other activities will cut off the unvaccinated segment of the population from participating in society.

Yes, it will, as it should. It has come to this. The unvaccinated segment of the population cannot be allowed to participate in society. But they never wanted to. And they got what they wanted.

About Alan

The editor is a former systems manager for a large California-based HMO, and a former senior systems manager for Northrop, Hughes-Raytheon, Computer Sciences Corporation, Perot Systems and other such organizations. One position was managing the financial and payroll systems for a large hospital chain. And somewhere in there was a two-year stint in Canada running the systems shop at a General Motors locomotive factory - in London, Ontario. That explains Canadian matters scattered through these pages. Otherwise, think large-scale HR, payroll, financial and manufacturing systems. A résumé is available if you wish. The editor has a graduate degree in Eighteenth-Century British Literature from Duke University where he was a National Woodrow Wilson Fellow, and taught English and music in upstate New York in the seventies, and then in the early eighties moved to California and left teaching. The editor currently resides in Hollywood California, a block north of the Sunset Strip.
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