New mandates will affect 100 million Americans. DOJ sues Texas over restrictive abortion law. WHO chief “appalled” by booster plans in wealthy countries.
New mandates will affect 100 million Americans
Last night, President Biden had harsh words for the roughly 80 million Americans who have yet to receive even one COVID vaccine shot. “We’ve been patient. But our patience is wearing thin, and your refusal has cost all of us”. This unvaccinated minority, he said, “can cause a lot of damage, and they are”.
Biden repeated that this a “pandemic of the unvaccinated” and that vaccines are the best protection we have against COVID hospitalization. Over 90% of those requiring hospitalization for COVID symptoms are unvaccinated. In contrast, only 1 in 160,000 fully vaccinated Americans have ended up in the hospital with COVID symptoms.
Biden also called out politicians throughout the nation who are discouraging common sense measures that could protect their citizens. “These pandemic politics,” Biden said “are making people sick, causing unvaccinated people to die.”
When introducing the new mandates, Biden made the case that “This is not about freedom, or personal choice; it’s about protecting yourself and those around you”.
Who will have to get the jab?
As expected, Biden extended federal vaccine mandates to all federal employees and contractors. This removes a previously available option for these workers to choose regular testing rather than vaccination. Additionally, 17 million employees in health centers that receive Medicare and Medicaid will also have to be vaccinated. This is significant as it is believed that nearly one quarter of healthcare workers remain unvaccinated.
Biden issued a softer but more sweeping mandate for private employers with over 100 employees. Large companies must require all their employees to either be vaccinated or submit to weekly testing. This will affect about 80 million Americans.
Furthermore, the President advised that workers who need to get vaccinated will get paid time off to do so, removing one hurdle that remains for many workers. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration will issue these requirements and impose a fine of $14,000 per violation.
Aside from the mandates…
Starting this week, Wal-mart, Kroger and Amazon will be selling at-home coronavirus tests at cost.
Schools will also receive further federal aid to cover costs like testing. The President also vowed to restore the pay of any education official in districts requiring mask in defiance of state-level orders. This promise takes aim at Republican governors like Ron De Santis of Florida, who has threatened to cut the pay of any school official that defies his ban on school mask mandates.
DOJ sues Texas over restrictive abortion law
The Department of Justice has filed to against Texas’ new abortion law in a federal court in Austin. The DOJ is asking for a permanent injunction that would bar anyone from enforcing this law. They are also asking the court to declare Texas’ abortion law invalid under the Supremacy Clause.
In a statement yesterday, Attorney General Merrick Garland said that Texas’ new abortion law “is clearly unconstitutional under longstanding Supreme Court precedent”. Garland specifically cited language in Planned Parenthood vs. Casey that prohibits any state from interfering with a woman’s decision to terminate a pregnancy at any point before fetal viability (approx. 24 weeks).
Garland pointed out that Texas does not dispute that its law violates Supreme Court precedent. Instead, the law “deputizes all private citizens, without any showing of personal connection or injury, to serve as bounty hunters”, in Garland’s words. Texas’ law empowers any private citizen to sue and collect $10,000 for any violation of the law, whether or not they have any legal standing.. Supreme Court Justice Roberts describes this as a tactic to “insulate the state from responsibility” for constitutional violations.
Garland also warned that other states could use this strategy to muddy the legal waters, making it possible to curtail not only abortion rights but ANY constitutional right.
Who exactly is the DOJ suing?
The enforcement mechanism of the Texas law makes it very difficult to challenge in court. Garland acknowledged that Texas wrote the law the way it did to “prevent women from exercising their constitutional rights by thwarting judicial review for as long as possible”.
This scheme has forced the DOJ to be equally creative in its challenge. The department is asking the court to block “private parties who would bring suit under S.B. 8” from enforcing the law by defining those private parties as “agents” of the state.
Steve Vladeck, a University of Texas Law School professor, says the DOJ approach takes advantage of the department’s unique ability to sue the State of Texas as a whole. But identifying every Texan as an agent of the state will be a big ask for the court. It’s unclear how any court could ban every Texan from filing a civil lawsuit. Even if the lower court accepts the DOJ’s logic, there is no way of knowing what will happen on appeal.
Does the DOJ have “standing”?
The federal government must show that it has “standing” to challenge the law. This requires demonstrating that the federal government or its operatives are subject to harm as a result of this law. To fulfill this requirement, the DOJ contends that the law will subject federal employees to civil suits for performing their duties. This would apply to federal personnel whose duties may include securing abortion access for people in the federal government’s care. Furthermore, the DOJ argues, the federal governments will incur transportation costs from sending people in its care out of Texas to obtain abortions.
The other part of the DOJ’s “standing” argument is that the law infringes on the rights of the public-at-large and denies women and abortion clinics the normal legal recourse. This would constitute a violation of the equal protection guarantees of the 14th Amendment.
WHO chief “appalled” by booster plans in wealthy countries
WHO chief Tedros Ghebreyesus is “appalled” by plans in several wealthy countries, including the US, to offer “booster” vaccines to its citizens while many millions around the world have yet to receive a single dose. Tedros said, “I will not stay silent when the companies and countries that control the global supply of vaccines think the world’s poor should be satisfied with leftovers”.
Tedros says that health workers and medically vulnerable people in poor countries should take priority over citizens of wealthy countries who have already received two doses.
Wealthy countries have pledged to donate one billion doses to poorer countries. This number is already insufficient to cover the global need. To date, less that 15% of those donations have actually materialized.
“We don’t want any more promises,” Tedros said. “We just want the vaccines.”
Poorer countries are still suffering the worst health and economic effects of the pandemic. COVID outbreaks continue to paralyze economies and overwhelm health systems in the developing world.
Additionally, new and more dangerous COVID-19 variants are more likely to emerge in populations with low vaccination rates. Those variants will eventually make their way to wealthier countries and could potentially even endanger those who are fully vaccinated.