News: Quick Takes

Republicans in N.C. House, Dems in Congress weigh in on vaccine mandates

The push and pull regarding vaccination mandates continues, both on Capitol Hill and on Jones Street, from Republicans and from Democrats.

In Washinton, D.C., two of North Carolina’s representatives in Congress have signed a letter requesting that COVID-19 vaccines be mandated for members and staff working on Capitol Hill. Reps. David Price, D-4th District, and Deborah Ross, D-2nd, put their names and offices on to a request that the attending physician for Congress, Rear Admiral Dr. Brian P. Monahan, issue a vaccine mandate or require twice-weekly COVID testing for those members or employees who do not, or cannot, comply.

In North Carolina, 55 House Republicans sent a letter Thursday, Aug. 5, to health system executives expressing their concern over a recent mandate requiring all hospital staff to receive the COVID-19 vaccination in the coming weeks to keep their jobs, the Republicans say in a news release. House Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, is not listed among the signers.

They write, “We continue to hear from countless constituents who work at your facilities that feel blindsided by this announcement,” the letter states.“Regardless of the legality surrounding mandatory vaccinations, there are valid concerns and fears from health care workers who will lose their job if they do not take the vaccine. An issue of particular concern is from women who are pregnant or breastfeeding and those with preexisting conditions or religious objections.”

The N.C. sites that will soon mandate vaccinations for workers include Duke University Health network and several UNC Health hospitals, the AP reports. “Other hospital systems that will compel staff to get the vaccine will include Charlotte-based Atrium Health, Greensboro-based Cone Health, Wake Forest Baptist Health and Winston-Salem-based Novant Health,” the AP says.

Dr. Mandy Cohen, the state health secretary, praised the association for encouraging hospitals to compel their workers to get vaccinated, according to the AP.

“Thank you to the North Carolina Healthcare Association, and the health systems that are leading the way requiring vaccination for employees, for taking action to protect the health care workforce, their patients, our communities and the state,” Cohen said in a news release, the AP says. “Vaccinations are our way out of the pandemic. Don’t wait to vaccinate.”

Rep. David Price

In Washington, D.C., all signers of the congressional letter urging a vaccine mandate are Democrats.

“To forego the common-sense decision to require vaccination or frequent testing in the halls of Congress due to partisan pressure would call into question the objectivity of how we make health and safety decisions for this institution — and risk members bringing a deadly virus back to their district,” the Democrats write. “Furthermore, a vaccine requirement issued by the nonpartisan Office of the Attending Physician may even contribute to the depoliticization of the COVID-19 vaccination here and back home,” the letter read.

Rep. Deborah Ross

The coordinated congressional effort was led by Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, a Missouri Democrat, after Republicans objected to Monahan reinstating the mask mandate on Capitol Hill following the Centers for Disease Control recommendation to reinstate indoor masking. The CDC reported an increase in COVID infections and hospitalizations from the Delta variant strain of the virus even among the vaccinated.

But in analyzing the CDC’s data, Jon Sanders, senior fellow of regulator studies at the John Locke Foundation, said there were questions about those “breakthrough” infections.

“Roughly one-fourth of “breakthrough” COVID-19 hospitalizations (26%) and deaths (24%) were “asymptomatic or not related to Covid-19,” he said.

“How many of North Carolina’s COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths were not related to Covid-19? Is it more or less than one-fourth? We still don’t know. All we know is, again, the official numbers are inflated. By how much, they still won’t say,” Sanders wrote.

The U.S. House members’ letter also came after President Biden announced that all civilian federal employees should report their vaccination status or submit to rigorous testing multiple times per week, remained distanced, masked, and taken off of travel lists for work projects.

Gov. Roy Cooper echoed the White House messaging, also calling COVID-19 the “pandemic of the unvaccinated” and urging state agencies and Council of State members to “push vaccines hard” on state employees, stopping short of issuing an official mandate. California and New York have already issued vaccine mandates for state employees. Critics of the mandates say that the decision to vaccinate should remain between individuals and their doctors.

Medical experts are seeing some good news in the recent spread of the Delta variant of COVID-19. In India and the United Kingdom, the strain has burned out quickly, peaking and diminishing in a matter of weeks. There are varied opinions on its exact timeline for the U.S, but some predictions are as short as a few weeks or as long as a couple of months.