President Biden spoke for millions of Americans on Thursday when he said, “Our patience is wearing thin.”
It certainly is. Those of us who have been vaccinated and still follow the safety protocols — wearing the uncomfortable masks, curtailing our social plans — only to have to bear the brunt of selfishness steaming off people drunk on their own sense of entitlement — our patience is close to cracking. Enough of this foolishness. Enough of the horse paste and lizard-people theories pushed by freakish faux doctors with credentials produced by diploma mills. Enough with the arrogance of those who rudely wave their rebelliousness in everyone else’s face, exerting “my rights” to be infectious over everyone else’s right to resume normal life.
He’s also right to say, “Your refusal has cost us all.” The continuing virus, still threatening because of the refusal of so many to be vaccinated, has crippled the nation’s economy and its education system and strained the mental and emotional health of countless millions — including the overworked medical professionals who are fighting to keep us alive.
Biden made his statements on Thursday while announcing sweeping new vaccine mandates that could affect up to 100 million Americans. Under his plan, most health care workers and federal employees will be required to be vaccinated or undergo weekly COVID testing. In addition, all employers who own companies with 100 or more employees will be required to have their workers vaccinated or undergo weekly COVID testing.
Biden announced these more stringent measures while — and because — pandemic numbers are on the rise, even here, where we’ve been much more conscientious than states like Florida and Texas. Last week, North Carolina surpassed 15,000 COVID-related deaths. And because the delta variant was allowed to take hold, our children must wear masks and practice social distancing while in school.
It didn’t take long for the howling to begin, including claims that Biden’s orders are “dictatorial” and “unconstitutional.” But vaccine mandates are as American as George Washington, who ordered his troops to be vaccinated against smallpox during the war for independence. Tell Washington that you don’t want a jab. Businesses and schools have long been allowed to mandate vaccines — and, for that matter, drug testing.
Biden delivered his remarks forcefully and unapologetically, noting that many corporations already require vaccinations — including Fox News, a revelation that took former Fox News commentator Todd Starnes by surprise. “That can’t be true. Have Hannity and Tucker and the others gotten the vaccine? That just can’t be true,” he tweeted.
But it is; the documents from Fox News, revealing that all workers must be vaccinated or wear a mask and distance themselves while at work, were released months ago. Fox News owner Rupert Murdoch was among the first on the planet to be vaccinated. It’s almost certain that every single one of Fox’s on-air personalities have been vaccinated.
And yet they go on the air almost nightly to increase vaccine hesitancy. We can only wonder what kind of sick game they’re playing with the very lives of their own viewers.
The problem is all the worse because so much reluctance has come from conservative rural folks who already suffer from fewer health care resources than their urban neighbors — and who already distrust the media and government sources that have been sounding the alarm about COVID for more than a year now. That distrust has been exploited by snake-oil salesmen, political and media operatives, and all sorts of malcontents who appeal to their independent pride and patriotism. As a result, multitudes of them have wound up in the hospital and/or the graveyard.
At some point, common sense must reign. The numbers don’t lie and health officials don’t lie about the numbers.
Sometimes we need government to be the bad guy, to take unpopular but necessary steps to serve the public good. Biden’s orders will relieve business owners and others from that responsibility.
Some, even though they’ll continue to whine about “government overreach,” will likely appreciate having a face-saving “out.”
If Biden achieves his goal — our goal — of a country freed from the grip of the pandemic, every bit of grousing will have been worth it.