COVID-19 cases in the US leapt 47.5% last week from the previous week. Shots in arms, not shutdowns, are the answer. Among the big risks to Americans right now are unvaccinated healthcare workers and unvaccinated, undocumented migrants fanning out across the U.S. But President Joe Biden is putting politics ahead of tackling these two politically toxic problems.
Team Biden is banning foreign travelers from many countries, including the UK, even if they’re fully vaccinated. But he’s okay with letting hundreds of thousands of unvaccinated foreigners wade across the Rio Grande to enter the U.S. via the southern border.
According to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) data, more than 80% of these migrants are unvaccinated. Some are coming from countries, such as Brazil and Peru, that have high infection rates and worrisome variants. The vaccination rates in Honduras and Guatemala, the countries of origin for most border crossers, are less than 1% .
Border Patrol doesn’t routinely test or vaccinate migrants when they’re apprehended, so data on infection rates are generally lacking. But when testing is done, the results are alarming. During a one-week period in California, a staggering 15% of migrants released into the community by Border Patrol were coronavirus-infected.
Some of these migrants brought the disease from their home country or picked it up en route, while others caught it in crowded border detention facilities. Either way, once they’re processed by border authorities and board buses to far away destinations such as New York and Chicago, they pose a national danger. Biden and Harris need to slam shut the border for health reasons.
The President also needs to use his bully pulpit to encourage healthcare workers here in the US to get vaccinated. Imagine you’re a hospital patient worrying that the nurse treating you or the attendant bringing your lunch has COVID-19. Nearly one in four hospital workers who has direct patient contact hasn’t received a single dose of vaccine, according to incomplete data from the Department of Health and Human Services. Incomplete, because neither HHS, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention nor any other federal agency has collected that important information.
Vaccinating healthcare workers is essential to make hospitals and nursing homes safe. That’s why they were put at the front of the line during the vaccine rollout. But vaccine reluctance is high, especially among female workers in lower-level jobs, such as nursing assistants.
Some hospitals have mandated vaccines. New York-Presbyterian is giving all employees up to September 1 to get at least the first shot in order to keep their jobs. But the 1199SEIU healthcare workers union plans to fight against the mandate, and the New York State Nurses Association also opposes it.
Houston Methodist in Texas fired 153 workers who refused to take the shots. When they sued, the courts upheld the hospital’s decision. No one has a constitutional right to be a healthcare worker.
Get the jab or get another job.
The UK took the radical step of mandating vaccination for all nursing home workers and is considering a requirement for all health care workers. It’s no wonder. Data from earlier in the year shows that patients went in for something else, and then got infected.
But Democrats, including Biden and Gov. Andrew Cuomo, apparently are so worried about offending union bigwigs that they won’t take sides on the urgency of vaccinating healthcare workers.
The president has said nothing, literally zip, about this serious health danger.
In New York, it would help if Cuomo were more vocal on the need for healthcare workers to get shots. Among nursing home staff, vaccination rates are often below 50%, even though their patients are very vulnerable.
As a candidate, Biden promised to “follow the science.” But — no surprise — he’s putting politics first. Biden is promising to go door to door to get people vaccinated. Going door to door works for getting out the vote, but it’s not enough to solve this public health crisis.
Betsy McCaughey is a former lieutenant governor of New York and author of "The Next Pandemic," available at Amazon.com. Contact her at [email protected] or on Twitter @Betsy_McCaughey. To find out more about Betsy McCaughey and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.