President Joe Biden unleashed a political maelstrom last week by ordering tough new pandemic response measures, including a requirement that all large employers impose vaccine mandates or weekly testing on their workers. He was right to do it because, as he correctly stated, the patience of vaccinated Americans is wearing thin. Under the circumstances, such a mandate shouldn’t even have been controversial. The fact that it is controversial demonstrates just how radically unreasonable the anti-science crowd has become.
In addition to the vaccination-or-testing requirements covering businesses with more than 100 employees, Biden on Thursday announced that all federal workers will be required to be vaccinated, period, eliminating the previous opt-out choice of weekly testing. He also ordered that all health facilities that accept Medicare or Medicaid require their staffs to be fully vaccinated. And he announced that federal transportation regulators will double fines for passengers who violate mask mandates on planes and trains.
In a tough-talking speech that voiced the frustration that millions of responsible Americans are feeling today, Biden made clear that his administration is done coddling and coaxing the 80 million Americans who are prolonging the pandemic by refusing vaccination.
About 200 million Americans are at least partially vaccinated, with virtually no serious adverse effects. The efficacy of the vaccines is undeniable at this point: The unvaccinated almost exclusively account for the patients filling hospital beds and morgues as the delta variant surges around the nation, forcing new pandemic restrictions and dulling economic performance.
The nation’s “patience is wearing thin,” Biden said. “And your refusal has cost all of us.” Amen.
Republican leaders around the country predictably lashed out at the new policies, vowing to sue and offering their usual misinterpretation of gross irresponsibility as “freedom.” Missouri Gov. Mike Parson tweeted that the new requirements have “potentially dangerous consequences for working families.” This as he continues to preside over case spikes that have repeatedly endangered the health, lives and livelihoods of working families across his state.
Businesses are already imposing all kinds of health mandates that haven’t spawned this kind of pushback. Major businesses like Walmart, McDonald’s and Delta Air Lines have had their own employee vaccine mandates in place for months. Many other businesses that may have wanted to impose such mandates but were worried about employee rebellion will undoubtedly welcome the new federal requirements. That may explain the remarkably muted response from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other business groups that often reflexively oppose any new requirements on businesses.
Biden has effectively thrown down a gauntlet — not against businesses and their employees but against anti-science extremists who are worsening the pandemic and the politicians who pander to them. It’s now up to Biden and his administration to defend these new measures and keep them in place. Lives depend on it.