FDA panel backs COVID-19 booster shots only for elderly and high-risk Americans

Republican AGs urge Biden administration to give up on vaccine requirements

(Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON — More than 20 Republican state attorneys general are threatening to sue the Biden administration over its mandate that large employers require their employees to either be vaccinated against the coronavirus vaccine or undergo weekly testing.

In a Thursday letter, the 24 AGs pushed the administration to remove the requirement that would affect nearly 80 million Americans and instead let employees make their own decisions on vaccinations.

“There are many less intrusive means to combat the spread of COVID-19 other than requiring vaccinations or COVID-19 testing,” they wrote. “The risks of COVID-19 spread also vary widely depending on the nature of the business in question, many of which can have their employees, for example, work remotely.”

On Sept. 9, President Joe Biden instructed the Department of Labor to issue a temporary emergency rule under the Occupational Safety and Health Act to mandate that employers either put in place a vaccine requirement, mandate weekly COVID-19 testing or fire employees who refuse to get vaccinated.

He later met with business leaders “who champion vaccine mandates that will. . .make sure that we keep businesses open and workers safe,” he said, underlining the mandate support from a traditionally Republican group.

The state attorneys general argue that Biden’s mandate is not legal.

“If your Administration does not alter its course, the undersigned state Attorneys General will seek every available legal option to hold you accountable and uphold the rule of law,” they wrote.

Those states include: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, West Virginia and Wyoming.

They argue that to justify OSHA’s emergency standard, the administration needs to prove that employees are exposed to grave danger.

“Moreover, many Americans who have recovered from COVID-19 have obtained a level of natural immunity, and the statistics are clear that young people without co-morbidities have a low risk of hospitalization from COVID-19,” they said. “You thus cannot plausibly meet the high burden of showing that employees in general are in grave danger.”

However, some studies have shown that COVID-19 infections are rapidly increasing in children. The American Academy of Pediatrics says that as of Sept. 9, nearly 5.3 million children have tested positive since the beginning of the pandemic and 243,000 cases were added in one week in September, the second-highest number in a week since the pandemic began.

The academy says that “at this time, it appears that severe illness due to COVID-19 is uncommon among children. However, there is an urgent need to collect more data on longer-term impacts of the pandemic on children, including ways the virus may harm the long-term physical health of infected children, as well as its emotional and mental health effects.”

Nearly 700,000 Americans have died of COVID-19 and there have been more than 44 million cases of the virus. Some of those who have recovered from the virus have suffered from long-haul COVID-19 symptoms, as reported by the Atlantic.    

The state AGs also argue that putting in place vaccine requirements is “likely to increase skepticism of vaccines.”

More than 180 million Americans, or at least half the U.S. population, are fully vaccinated, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

New national poll: Americans in red and blue states support mask and vaccine mandates

Pollsters at Monmouth University released new national survey results yesterday on American attitudes toward mask and vaccine mandates in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The central finding: support for public mandates continues to grow.

This is from the release that accompanied the poll results:

A majority of Americans support the vaccine mandates announced by President Joe Biden last week amid rising concerns about the chance of catching COVID. According to the Monmouth University Poll, the public also supports instituting guidelines for masking and social distancing in their state as well as requiring people to show proof of vaccination for certain activities, such as boarding an airplane or going to the office. The poll finds majority support for nearly all these measures in both blue states and red states, although a significant number of people – mostly Republicans – remain opposed to getting the COVID vaccine.

Support for instituting, or reinstituting, state-based face mask and social distancing guidelines has increased in the past few months. Currently, 63% support these measures in their state, which is up from 52% in July. This shift has come mostly in blue states, which were experiencing a lull in COVID transmission early in the summer. In Monmouth’s July poll, residents of states that voted for President Joe Biden (49%) were slightly less likely than those in states that voted for former President Donald Trump (54%) to support instituting these guidelines. Now, 66% (+17 points) of blue state residents and 59% (+5 points) of red state residents support these measures. Majority support in both types of states comes even though only 32% of Republicans individually support these measures.

The poll also finds that 66% of Americans support requiring that face masks be worn by students, teachers, and staff in schools. This includes majorities of blue state (68%) and red state (63%) residents….

…Most Americans support vaccine mandates for key groups mentioned in Biden’s announcement last week. This includes requiring COVID vaccines for health care workers (63%), federal employees (58%), and private contractors working for the federal government (55%). The poll also finds majority support (60%) for requiring teachers and school staff to be vaccinated. Half (51%) of the American public supports a vaccine mandate for school students aged 12 and older. The blue state/red state difference in support for any of these mandates is no larger than 5 points (e.g. 65% blue state and 60% red state for health care workers). Both types of states show majority support for all of these mandates except in the case of school children (53% in blue states, but just 48% in red states).

Click here to explore the poll results in more detail.

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Congressman Madison Cawthorn urges Johnston County school board to end mask mandate

Madison Cawthorn

U.S. Representative Madison Cawthorn on Tuesday urged the Johnston County Board of Education to “defy” Gov. Roy Cooper by reversing its decision to mandate masks in schools.

The Hendersonville Republican attended the board’s regular business meeting at the request of local groups opposed to the board’s mask mandate, which was approved on a 4-3 vote last month.

“It’s time to be fearless,” Cawthorn said. “It’s time to stand up to Roy Cooper and say that the family and individual freedom always comes for the government.”

Cooper has left it to school districts to decide whether to require masks. Nearly all 115 districts are requiring masks.

The board took no action on the mask mandate, opting to postpone it due to the absence of vice chairwoman Terri Sessoms, whose husband died recently. A special virtual meeting has been scheduled for 2 p.m., Monday to address the mask mandate. A new law requires school boards to vote on masking policies monthly.

Doing the right thing is never easy, Cawthorn told the board.

“The eyes of our children are upon us,” he said. “They will remember your action when tyranny came knocking at the door.”

Cawthorn’s words were met with scattered applause by a small group of supporters who managed to secure seats inside the small board room. He’s attended several school board meetings across the state to denounce mask mandates and to drum up support for Republican candidates in upcoming elections.

The congressman spoke earlier at a rally held before the board meeting began. He was joined by Robby Starbuck, a Tennessee congressional candidate and Bo Hines, a candidate for North Carolina’s 13th congressional district as well as other candidates vying for seats in local and state races.

Cawthorn told the crowd that he’s determined to save his generation from “socialism.”

“That’s why I’m out here now,” Cawthorn said.

Although outnumbered, a handful of parents forcefully pushed back against mask opponents.

“This is a posturing, political event and it shouldn’t be,” said Erika Hall, a Johnston County parent. “This is supposed to be a regular school board meeting, but unfortunately it’s going to be about masks when it should be about supporting teachers.”

Cawthorn’s visit comes as the school district’s COVID dashboard shows 178 active COVID cases and 782 quarantines among students. Meanwhile, there are 15 cases and 50 quarantines among staff.

Policy Watch will have a more complete report on the rally later today.