Last week President Biden used his sweeping authority over the federal government to mandate the COVID-19 vaccine to all federal employees, contractors, and businesses with over 100 employees. This decision was incredibly controversial, mostly among Republicans who saw the decision as a great overstep in federal authority. Their feelings are understandable and even rational to a degree. However, the decision will undeniably save lives and ensure the United States is moving out of the pandemic, something Biden promised upon taking office.
Biden made this decision not to remain popular, but to save lives. When governors will not make logical, science-based decisions, the President still has a responsibility to save American lives. It is hard to remember a time when a president has been forced to make these kinds of calls, but governors like Greg Abbott, the Republican governor of Texas, have forced Biden’s hand. Abbott’s mandate banning mask mandates in classrooms is not only an overreach of his authority over local and city governments with the state supreme court stepping in against him, but a foolish, politically motivated decision that endangers the lives of teachers, students, and their families. With school-aged children making up 25% of new COVID-19 cases nationally, and a growing amount hospitalized or worse, Governor Abbott seems more concerned with children who have not yet been born compared to those who currently call his state home.
This is the universe in which Biden’s decision lives; a universe where people who live in Idaho, a state without mask mandates or vaccination requirements, are sending hospitalized COVID-19 patients to neighboring state Washington. Case rates and hospitalizations have gotten so bad in northern Idaho that many hospitals have been forced to operate in the crisis standard of care, where hospitals are permitted to ration their resources or withhold optimal care for some patients.
The U.S. was close to ending the pandemic this summer, as the average daily cases had decreased from a high of 250,000 in early January to only 11,000 in June. Then, the pace of vaccinations slowed down and the Delta variant arrived, raising the averages back to 150,000 average daily cases in September, largely in areas and states that lagged in vaccination rates- mostly in the South. States like Louisiana, Texas, and Missouri all experienced some of their worst outbreaks since the pandemic began, and all were in the bottom 10 percent of vaccination rates. This once again put pressure on hospitals and ICU Units that saw their occupancy reach 100%.
In a country that believes in personal responsibility, what happens when crisis comes and personal responsibility doesn’t? Responsibility is mandated. President Biden is not comfortable watching thousands and thousands of unvaccinated Americans continue to needlessly die. According to Fox News, 99% of those hospitalized from COVID-19 since January 1 have not been vaccinated, and less than 1% of all deaths since then were people who were vaccinated. It’s not enough to offer incentives to get vaccinated, it’s time to require it in as many places as possible, and finally put this pandemic behind us. Biden understands this better than anyone.