On Tuesday, the Justice Department issued a legal opinion in response to questions about whether companies and government entities can require workers to take the COVID-19 vaccine, even though current vaccines are available under an Emergency Use Authorization from the FDA. After a thorough review, and pointing out some confusing issues of current law, the DOJ responded with an emphatic “yes.”
“For the reasons set forth above, we conclude that section 564 of the FDCA does not prohibit public or private entities from imposing vaccination requirements, even when the only vaccines available are those authorized under EUAs.”
This ruling built on top of previous guidance from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission which determined “Federal EEO laws do not prevent an employer from requiring all employees physically entering the workplace to be vaccinated for COVID-19...”
With these rulings in hand, President Joe Biden is moving ahead to see that federal workers either get vaccinated, or face regular testing. As Reuters reports, Biden is expected to make an announcement that involves all civilian federal workers on Thursday afternoon at the White House. Workers who refuse the vaccine will not be fired or reprimanded. They will, however, face additional testing and social distancing guidelines. In all, the mandate would cover 2.18 million civilian employees. It may also extend to 570,000 workers for the U.S. Postal Service. In addition to the expected federal requirements, both California and New York City have announced intention to require COVID-19 vaccines for their respective state and municipal employees along with health care workers.
And it’s not just the federal government that is leaning on that DOJ decision. The unvaccinated are about to find their options are getting smaller on a number of fronts.
Despite Republicans at the state level attempting to block “vaccine passports,” KSDK reports that a group of restaurants in St. Louis will now limit indoor dining only to the vaccinated. On Wednesday, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that another bar and restaurant in that city also joined the “no vax, no service” movement. And on Thursday morning CNBC brought news that New York Restauranteur Danny Meyer is planning a mandate for both customers and staff at his numerous restaurants.
There’s no doubt that Republicans will spend the day screaming over the increasing number of vaccine mandates, or that Republican governors from Mike Parson to Greg Abbott to Ron DeSantis will try to test whether they have the ability to dictate safety to private business. But there’s also no doubt that actually imposing some inconvenience in day-to-day life might be all that’s required to get Republican anti-vaxxers to fold. Because that anti-vaxx movement may already be crumbling.
As Markos pointed out on Wednesday, data from Civiqs is finally showing some movement in Republican vaccine hostility. That abrupt change continues in the latest data. The shift is there for both Republican men and women and across age groups.
This is the first time since vaccines were introduced that Republicans have broken seriously away from their vaccine hostility, and though the numbers are still high, that change has also been enough to generate a noticeable uptick in the overall national numbers. As the CDC Data Tracker shows, vaccination rates bottomed out in the second week of July, but the 7-day average is now about 500,000 doses again and moving up.
If, as CNN reports, Republicans in COVID-19 hot spots like southwest Missouri are feeling the need to don disguises and go in secret to get the vaccine … they’re still getting the vaccine.
With the DOJ decision in the can, state workers facing requirements, and President Biden about to make vaccination a requirement for federal workers, expect more and more such requirements to come down. As CNN reports, experts have made it clear that the unvaccinated “should not go into a bar” and “should probably not eat at a restaurant.” A survey of San Francisco restaurant owners found that 63% back a vaccine mandate.
Until now, Biden had resisted using his authority to direct federal employees to get vaccinated. But it’s clear that vaccine disinformation and politicization had stalled out the vaccine effort in the United States. With a new surge of cases and the backing of a legal opinion, Biden is now moving in a way that will certainly generate anger in right-wing media, but will also put vaccine into people’s arms. And, from the very beginning, President Biden has been very clear that what matters is getting people protected, no matter how they feel about him.
As Ashya Qamar reported in June, a number of hospitals across the nation have already required that their workers be vaccinated. However, some of them have faced not just protests, but hostility from state governments, such as when Texas Gov. Greg Abbott used his power to block state contracts.
Whether it’s jobs, health care, or entertainment, the unvaccinated aren’t just facing a rising tide of delta variant, but increasing support for telling them to simply go get jabbed. Because the vaccinated … have had enough.
As St. Louis beer garden Gezellig posted on Facebook, “Once again, we can’t have nice things because some of y’all have either been way too selfish or way too dumb, but now we have to go back to wearing masks because of you. And the ironic thing is most of you were the ones complaining about the masks over the last year.”