Jim Beam column: Biden mandates under fire

Published 8:18 am Sunday, September 12, 2021

President Joe Biden’s widespread covid vaccination mandates have created another storm of controversy. Republican officials are livid about the mandates, businesses are skeptical and legal challenges are already being prepared.

Curtis, the star of our daily comic strip by the same name, explained the current situation Saturday much better than I could.

“Covid fatigue is real and we’re all tired of being shut in, shut down and shut out!” Curtis said. “But it’s a defining moment in our little community.

“Tragedy used to unify us, not divide us into angry, combative threatening tribes. If we returned to civility, maybe other communities will follow suit until we’re one big worldwide community.”

The U.S. is clearly a long way from Curtis’ ideal world, and you would think the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks might have brought us closer together. However, we are as divided as we have ever been.

The president of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association said the president’s mandates are “ill-conceived” and added, “Vaccination should be promoted through education and encouragement not coercion.”

Unfortunately, that system hasn’t worked. Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, vice dean at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, explained why.

“There is an aspect to this now that has to do with our country being so divided,” Sharfstein said. “This has become so politicized that people can’t see the value of a vaccination that can save their lives. Our own divisions are preventing us from ending a pandemic.”

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster promised to “fight them (the mandates) to the gates of hell to protect the liberty and livelihood of every South Carolinian.”

Asked Friday about those threatened lawsuits, Biden told McMaster and the governors of Arizona, Indiana, Georgia, Montana, Tennessee and Texas, “Have at it. We’re playing for real here. This isn’t a game.”

Biden has also criticized the roughly 80 million Americans who are not yet vaccinated, even though they have been given time and incentives to get the shots.

“We’ve been patient. But our patience is wearing thin, and your refusal has cost all of us,” Biden said. He added that the unvaccinated minority “can cause a lot of damage, and they are.”

The mandates to get vaccinated or take weekly virus tests will affect employers with more than 100 workers, health care workers whose facilities receive Medicare or Medicaid, employees of the federal executive branch, contractors who do business with the federal government, some schools and entrance requirements for entertainment venues and arenas.

Most of those who are affected will be allowed exceptions for religious or medical reasons. However, they will have to work with a medical provider and provide other documentation.

The latest figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show 208.7 million in the U.S. (62.9 percent) have received at least one dose of the covid vaccine. Those fully vaccinated total 178 million (53.6 percent).

The U.S. is seeing about 300 percent newer COVID-19 infections a day, about 2½ times more hospitalizations and nearly twice the number of deaths compared to the same time last year.

Some question the CDC figures. An email I got Saturday said, “Could it be the number of covid cases are a tad inflated for monetary reasons?”

A story from the Healthcare Financial Management Association (hfma.org) sent with the email was headlined, “Hospitals in COVID-19 hotspots to receive $10 billion more in federal aid.”

The writer said he doesn’t vouch for the source but read that 40 percent of hospital-diagnosed COVID was from people entering for some other reason than COVID.

Perhaps the major reason the unvaccinated won’t get the shots is because they believe the large amount of misinformation available on questionable social media websites.

The Associated Press said the White House is gearing up for legal challenges to Biden’s mandates and believes that even if some of the mandates are tossed out, millions of Americans will get a shot because of the new requirements — saving lives and preventing the spread of the virus.

Legal opinions on Biden’s chances vary. Some experts said the devil is in the details and most of those aren’t known yet. Others believe the fact that unvaccinated people pose a risk not only to themselves but also to others gives the president strong legal footing.

We hope more people do get vaccinated because like Curtis in the comics said, COVID-19 is real and we are tired of being “shut in, shut down and shut out.”