President Biden announced a number of initiatives to require several categories of Americans to get vaccinated against COVID. These include federal workers, employees of federal contractors, and employees of companies with 100+ workers. The latter requirement will be imposed by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which, as its name implies, regulates workplace health and safety. The OSHA requirement will include an alternative option for workers to get tested frequently to demonstrate they do not have COVID.
Republicans, who as of yesterday, were castigating Biden for not doing enough to get the COVID pandemic under control, are now saying he is doing too much. Surprising that they would make the health and safety of Americans into a political issue, isn’t it? Of course not – that’s what they do!
In fact, Republicans have done everything they can to thwart efforts by the federal government, local governments, and businesses to prevent the spread of COVID – even now with the deadly, more transmissible Delta Variant running rampant among the unvaccinated.
Hospitals are overflowing with unvaccinated COVID patients, to the extent that there have been reports of other patients with serious medical issues not being able to get the medical attention they need. Sadly, a veteran in Texas recently died of treatable gallstone pancreatitis after waiting seven hours for an ICU bed because area hospitals were swamped with COVID patients. Something has to be done.
When Biden announced he was taking measures to combat COVID, Texas Governor Greg Abbott was out of the blocks early, tweeting “Biden’s vaccine mandate is an assault on private businesses.” So says the man who threatened to pull the liquor licenses of restaurants and bars that sought to require proof of vaccination for patrons of their establishments.
Abbott’s spokesman asserted that “The federal government needs to stop trying to run private businesses,” also claiming that “Texans and Americans alike have learned and mastered the safe practices to protect themselves and their loved ones from COVID, and do not need the government to tell them how to do so.”
OK, let’s dispense with that one straight away. Americans, and especially Texans, have not mastered practices to protect themselves and loved ones from COVID, or else we would not be seeing a spike in COVID cases, hospitalizations, and deaths. We are in this resurgence largely due to a pigheaded response by people who refuse to be vaccinated or wear masks or social distance. And sadly, they are not just harming themselves. Like drunk drivers careening down the road, they cause others to suffer for their selfish, thoughtless inactions.
South Dakota Governor Kristi “Sturgis Superspreader” Noem called Biden’s vaccination initiatives “a gross example of federal intrusion” that “will not stand.” Clearly the federal government can mandate conditions for federal workers and contractors, so she must be objecting to the OSHA regulation of businesses.
However, OSHA has jurisdiction over worker safety in the workplace via the Occupational Safety & Health Act of 1970 (as amended), including the ability to issue an Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) swiftly, and without the normal public notice and comment procedures. An ETS can last up to 6 months, during which time the agency must follow normal rule making procedures and issue a final rule on the subject.
Rep. Dan Crenshaw of Texas also objected to Biden’s OSHA announcement, saying, “Are you people trying to start a full on revolt? Honestly what the hell is wrong with Democrats? Leave people the hell alone. This is insanity.” Imagine being so warped that you describe measures to protect the public health of Americans as “insanity.”
To some Republican “leaders,” portable morgues are a more reasonable response to a resurgence of COVID than vaccine or mask mandates. You would think that Republicans who pressed so hard to reopen (or keep open) the economy and our schools would be the ones pushing hardest for measures to ensure that we can do so safely, without backsliding. Sadly, they vigorously object to effective health protection measures, and instead push for actions that would ensure that COVID runs rampant again.