Frustration With COVID Deniers Rises, Along With New Caseloads
"This freedom argument is bunk," Trump's surgeon general says
Anger, frustration and tensions are rising over those Americans who often refuse to vaccinate themselves against COVID-19, or wear masks to limit the spread of the deadly disease.
Some 164 million Americans are fully vaccinated, including 80 percent of seniors and more than 60 percent of adults, the White House reported this week.
However, there are pockets of Americans who stubbornly refuse to either get vaccinated or wear masks.
This denialism is largely a phenomenon among those on the political right, who often have been exposed to various forms of misinformation — or outright disinformation — about the available vaccines, or the disease itself. This misinformation has been conveyed via social media and right-wing media, such as Fox News.
The Biden administration has been making it a priority over the last couple of weeks to root out the misinformation from its sources.
Resistant Americans often cast the matter as one of “personal freedom,” however.
A group of House Republicans very publicly marched Thursday to the Senate side of the US Capitol in protest of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's mandate that masks must be worn in the House chambers.
Dr Jerome Adams, who served as US surgeon general during the Trump administration and became a prominent face to Americans through the early months of the COVID pandemic, said those touting the “personal freedom” argument have it completely backwards.
“And to answer your question in a word, yes, we need to help people understand that this freedom argument is bunk. I mean, at the end of the day, we are losing freedoms because people are unvaccinated,” Dr Adams said. “And I don’t want to shame anyone who has questions because, every day, I talk to people. I talked to at least five people today who had questions, and helped them get their questions answered and move them towards vaccinations. But people need to understand the real consequences. And the consequences are, as I said last week, more mitigation and as I’m telling you this week, I am predicting closures, in the future, because we are not going to be able to reign this variant back in, before we get enough spread that is going to start causing closures, again.
“And so, I don’t want my kids to have to go through another year of virtual school. I don’t want our hospitals to be overwhelmed and for them to be shut down for elective surgeries, like we saw last year. Our freedoms are being impinged upon because we have far too many people unvaccinated,” he added.
No less than President Biden himself addressed the “freedom” argument, as well.
“It's about life and death. That’s what it’s about. You know, and I know people talk about freedom but I learned growing up at school and with my parents, with freedom comes responsibility. The decision to be unvaccinated impacts someone else,” the president said Thursday. “Unvaccinated people spread the virus. They get sick and fill up our hospitals and that means if someone else has a heart attack or breaks a hip, there may not be a hospital bed for them. If you’re unvaccinated, you put your doctor and nurses at risk the same front line essential workers who put their lives on the line over the past year and have gone through hell. Again, with freedom comes responsibility. So please exercise responsibility judgment. Get vaccinated for yourself, for the people you love, for your country.
“I’m being literal when I say this, as I travel the world almost every day a foreign leader calls me asking can I provide his or her country more vaccines. Their people are desperate for vaccines. We’re doing everything to answer those calls, we’re sending millions of vaccines to people around the world,” he added. “But folks, it’s an American blessing that we have vaccines for each and every American.”
New cases of COVID-19 are spiraling in areas with large numbers of unvaccinated Americans — and fueled by the more virulent Delta variant.
“Right now in the community, the spread is exponential. And that exponential spread is because of the Delta variant. We know now that Delta variant carries a thousand times more viral load and everybody who's sick with it. And that spreads to more and more people than previous variants,” said Dr Catherine O'Neal, with Our Lady Of The Lake Medical Center, in Baton Rouge, La. “So last year's variant that we thought was bad enough was far less contagious than this variant. And that's resulting in just an exponential number of patients coming into the hospital. So this morning, we're sitting at 119 COVID positive patients in our hospital that's a 50 percent increase from just last week."
$100 to get vaccinated
The president also announced additional steps to encourage unvaccinated Americans to finally get their shots — including asking state and local governments to offer $100 to anyone who gets vaccinated.
“First, we’re going to provide more incentives to encourage unvaccinated Americans to get vaccinated. That starts with paid leave to get the shot. We’re still hearing that people are unable to get time off from their employer to get vaccinated. Well, this is unacceptable. For some time now I’ve said, you should be able to get the shot and still get paid thanks to the American rescue plan, the federal government is fully reimbursing any small or medium-sized business that provides workers with paid time off to get vaccinated. Employers, this costs you nothing. If you haven’t given employees paid time off, do it now, please.
“Today I’m announcing that we’re taking this a step further. The federal government will now reimburse those employers who give their staffs time off, not only to get themselves vaccinated but also to get their family members vaccinated,” he said. “That means employers can get reimbursed if they give parents time off with paid time, paid leave to take their kids or their own parents to get vaccinated. So I’m calling on all employees across the country to give paid time off to get the shot or to help a family member do so. I promise you it will cost you the employer nothing. You’ll be reimbursed.
“Secondly, I’m announcing that we’ll continue the work with states to encourage unvaccinated people to get vaccinated. In February, a grocery store chain Kroger’s offered $100 to their associates if they would get vaccinated, and it worked. Vaccination rates moved up from 50 percent to 75 percent among their employees,” the president added. “States like New Mexico, Ohio, and Colorado are offering similar incentive programs that have helped increase vaccination rates. So today I’m calling on all states and local governments to use funding they have received including from the American Rescue Plan to give $100 to anyone who gets fully vaccinated.”
Biden acknowledged that offering cash payments for vaccination at this point may seem unfair to those who already got it.
“I know it might sound unfair to folks who have already gotten vaccinated already, but here’s the deal, if incentives help us beat this virus I believe we should use them. We all benefit if we can get more people vaccinated,” he said.
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