During the summer, the COVID-19 Delta variant caused a surge in infections after what had been a fairly successful although imperfect effort on the part of the Biden administration to …
During the summer, the COVID-19 Delta variant caused a surge in infections after what had been a fairly successful although imperfect effort on the part of the Biden administration to vaccinate 70% of the population by July 4. Unfortunately, this fell short because of vaccine resistance in the young, some minorities and especially Republicans. Vaccine misinformation from right wing propaganda sources has pummeled the public incessantly. These factors resulted in a significant spike in COVID deaths. The president was forced to act.
On Sept. 9, President Joe Biden announced a mandate requiring COVID-19 vaccines or frequent testing for certain cohorts of workers including larger private sector firms, which predictably resulted in a very forceful reaction (Powell Tribune Sept. 23 and Oct. 14).
On Sept. 15, Gov. Mark Gordon announced a two-pronged strategy to combat what he termed the “Biden administration overreach.” The first was legal action by the state attorney general. The second was a call for a special legislative session. This letter deals with the former.
On Sept. 16, the attorneys general of 24 states, including Bridget Hill of Wyoming, sent a letter to the president strongly opposing his plan to utilize the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) to issue an “emergency temporary standard” mandating employers with 100 or more workers to require them to obtain the vaccine, get frequent testing or be fired for refusal to do so. They discussed several reasons for this.
They initially stated that workers who do not want the vaccine may elect to leave their jobs, resulting in critical staffing shortages, such as in health care.
The mandate, they argued, would increase skepticism of vaccine efficacy because it would send the wrong message that vaccinated people, who can still get COVID, need “protection” from those who choose not to be vaccinated. It does not account for differences in individual workplace environments — for example, people who work from home or outdoors.
The letter then states that Biden’s use of OSHA is illegal due to misuse of the emergency temporary standard, which requires that employees be in “grave danger” from exposure to toxic, harmful substances or “new hazards.” They claim that the virus is not the type of hazard that OSHA addresses. They claimed that Biden’s emphasis that the significant protection afforded by the vaccine “undercuts the grave danger requirement.” They note that the mandate does not take into account natural immunity or the low risk of serious illness in “young people.”
They make a series of legal arguments. Among these are that the OSHA statute does not allow the Department of Labor to regulate private health decisions outside of work. Millions of Americans would be adversely affected because of the threat of losing their jobs, homes, and benefits and that they could expect further “abuses.” It would “vastly alter the constitutional balance of power,” represent a “sweeping intrusion on traditional state authority,” and cause division and mistrust based on “flimsy legal arguments, contradictory statements, and threatening directives.”
They finally threaten Biden with legal action to hold him accountable to the rule of law.
This letter has a number of flaws. First, it obviously was written by attorneys without any medical oversight. Some of the information on COVID is misleading or outdated. The use of “natural immunity” as a reason to resist vaccination is one.
People who previously had COVID can still get reinfected. A recent study showed that the unvaccinated were twice as likely to get reinfected as compared to those who were immunized. More than a third of COVID infections do not generate adequate protective antibodies. Natural immunity also fades more rapidly than the vaccine.
The use of “young people” (children) as pawns to resist vaccination is unconscionable. The American Academy of Pediatrics reports that about 6 million children have been infected since the start of the pandemic with the Delta variant causing a more recent spike of 1.1 million cases over the past six weeks. While serious illness and death is very low, THEY STILL OCCUR! Rates of childhood infection are highest in communities with a low vaccination rate. CDC Director Rochelle Walensky states that community level vaccination coverage protects children.
Whether the legal arguments regarding OSHA are valid have yet to be determined. The other inflammatory remarks about government overreach, balance of power, etc., are distractions without merit.
We are still in a very serious pandemic that is straining the health care system. The vaccines have been proven to be effective and safe. If you are hesitant, please talk to your doctor, find the courage to do the right thing and get vaccinated.