One thing that’s rising even more quickly than COVID-19 cases in Florida is the frustration with the unvaccinated across the nation. Back in the spring, vaccination rates reached over 4 million doses in a single day. With President Joe Biden ensuring adequate supplies for every person in the country, an army of healthcare workers (including the actual Army) engaged in giving vaccines, and a series of targets met (100 million doses! 200 million doses!) it seemed everyone was on their way to a relaxing beach vacation, or that long-delayed visit with distant relatives. And then came the vaccine resisters. Or to be more clear, Republican vaccine resisters. Fueled by a raft of social media rumors, the exhaust from Tucker Carlson’s auxiliary anus, and pure cussedness, a solid 40% of Republicans sat down on the second base line and refused the play the game with the rest of America.
While they pouted about whatever Fox News last told them to pout about, the vaccine hostile were really counting on one simple thing, something they’ve counted on their whole lives: Reasonable people would save them. What the holdouts really expected was that things would be fine. Because they’re always fine. They get to scream and make claims about pizza tunnels, while Reasonable People make the world keep spinning.
They could be as vaccine hostile as they wanted, because everyone else would get the vaccine. Then they could go around wagging their finger over how America was populated by sheep and robots, while leaning back on the knowledge that those sheep and robots were saving their unvaccinated necks. But the delta variant came along and screwed up that little plan. With an R0 value roughly the same as a googol (not Google), the “wave my gun and scream about freedom” faction soon found that, this time at least, the Reasonable People could not drag the unmasked ship of fools across the finish line.
And now, dammit, it’s get vaccinated or else. Because the Reasonable People are tired of being reasonable.
On Friday, a number of companies threw up their hands and declared that they were going to require vaccination for employees. As The New York Times reported, the list of companies slapping down a mandate included some big names. Names like Walmart and Disney. Those are two names that could be especially fun for certain red state governors who have made being the most unreasonable a point of honor.
Disney has already demonstrated that it’s willing to thumb its giant Mickey nose at Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. Though when it comes to the state legislature, the House of Mouse doesn’t really have to worry—the state carved out a giant Disney-shaped exception when pushing businesses to pretend the pandemic was over.
There is no such exemption for Walmart, though that Walmart news isn’t as big as it might sound. Because the company is actually only moving to protect workers in its corporate offices, and managers who travel between stores. The actual workers at the Walmart nearest you will continue to be treated as disposable commodities, more easily restocked than the toilet paper aisle. As always. So the Walmart problem will actually just fall on the shoulders of Gov. Asa Hutchinson, and there is nothing more reliable than that Republican officials in Arkansas will do as Bentonville tells them.
The ruling from the DOJ that vaccine mandates by local governments and business are legal opened the floodgates this week. As The Wall Street Journal reports, several Wall Street banking firms have instructed their employees to take the jab. Some of those companies, like Citigroup, are following revised CDC guidelines and requiring everyone to wear masks in the office, regardless of vaccination status. On the big tech side, Google and Facebook have also announced they will require all employees at their U.S. campuses to be vaccinated.
Businesses aren’t alone; some universities and private schools are announcing that all staff will be vaccinated. As the Lansing State Journal reports, Michigan State University will require vaccinations for all staff and students when classes begin on Sept. 1, and will also require everyone to wear a mask when indoors. The California State University system has also announced vaccination will be required for all faculty, staff, and students who attend in-person classes.
What’s not happening is a federal mandate that would force every American to be vaccinated, regardless of how it’s being reported over at the National Review. CDC director Rochelle Walensky has already made it clear that she was talking about a mandate for federal workers and contractors, not a federal vaccine corps marching to every door in America. And that, of course, will mean that Republicans will drop this claim that was already exploding across right-wing media (spoiler alert: They won’t).
Republicans are already working hard on the unreasonable response. As the Associate Press reports, Republican state legislators in Wisconsin are trying to pre-empt the university there by blocking them from instituting requirements for vaccination, masking, or even testing. Take that, student safety! As The Guardian notes, the Oklahoma Republican Party didn’t hesitate to whip out their Nazi metaphors, comparing COVID-19 vaccine mandates “to the persecution of Jewish people in Nazi Germany.” That included placing a yellow star of David on the Party’s official Facebook page, and calling for a special session of the state legislature to pass bills prohibiting prohibit employers from requiring vaccination.
But Texas is, as usual, ahead of the unreasonable curve. As NBC reports, Gov. Greg Abbott moved quickly in response to new CDC guidelines suggesting that children wear masks in school, and that everyone wear masks in COVID-19 hot spots (which would include the entire Lone Star State). Abbott soon dashed off an executive order that blocks schools from requiring either vaccination or masks. That executive order ends with the claim that it was done to "provide clarity and uniformity in the Lone Star State’s continued fight against COVID-19."
If what Abbott’s order is trying to say is that Texans are not going to fight at all, and intend to passively hand their children over to the virus—sure, that’s clear. And it does fit in with Texas’ founding tradition of getting people pointlessly killed in boneheaded stands over causes favored by white supremacists.
Texas had over 13,000 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, exceeded only by the 17,000+ in Florida. Both states are now back to where they were in February, with cases still climbing. Maybe that’s making both Abbott and DeSantis think that being on the side of the virus is the winning team.
They might want to think again.