Pitting individual rights against community health stymies US fight against COVID-19

By Carlton Joseph

Carlton Joseph

I decided to revisit the pandemic when I read that Arizona’s Attorney General, Mark Brnovich, expanded his lawsuit against the Biden Administration’s vaccine mandates, asking the judge to place a temporary injunction on both mandates for federal employees and private companies as the case is deliberated.

The lawsuit asserts that the mandate was unconstitutional and one of the greatest infringements upon individual liberty, federalism and the separation of powers in US history. 

Individual liberty means the freedom to pursue one’s desires and interests as a person, but must not clash with the interests or desires of others.  Federalism gives an equal opportunity to all individuals and prevents one power from overpowering another.  Brnovich must think that his desires and interests are above all other desires and interests. 

Tragically, over 700,000 Americans have died from the virus. We had the knowledge and the tools to prevent this from happening, unfortunately conservative politicians, mistrust in science, and lies from conservative media talking heads have sowed deep divisions and immobilized the country.  America has become a fourth world country where truth and facts don’t matter, greed and self-interest dominate. 

President Biden announced mandates for federal employees, the military and federal contractors to get vaccinated.  However, these mandates face legal and practical challenges, because the policy process requires a set of bureaucratic steps to ensure that the agency makes careful, reasoned decisions, and allow for public comment before the rule can be implemented.

This means that Republicans can produce legal challenges for the Biden’s entire term in office and obstruct any mandates.  Fortunately, the Businesses Roundtable has announced support for the vaccine mandates, including the proposed private sector mandate, which requires firms with 100 or more employees to get shots or be regularly tested. 

In this new America, the Republican National Committee promised to sue in order to halt Biden’s private-sector vaccine mandate, while Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott signed an executive order claiming to nullify the federal mandate for the state’s businesses.  Republicans seem to have embraced the Calvinist doctrine that they have been elected by God to make decisions for the country and that Trump, because of his material wealth, is selected by God as their leader.

The pandemic has disrupted factories in the manufacturing heartlands of the world, places like China, South Korea, Taiwan, Vietnam and Germany.  Many factories were shut down or were forced to reduce production because workers were sick or in lockdown, while shipping companies cut their schedules in anticipation of a drop in demand for moving goods around the world. 

Unanticipated was that demand would rise for home products because peoples’ homes were doubling as offices and classrooms.  The steep surge in demand clogged the system for transporting goods to the factories that needed them, finished products piled up in warehouses and at ports, because of a shortage of shipping containers.

The heavy influx of ships overwhelmed the availability of docks and many ships were forced to anchor out in the ocean for days before they could load and unload. At the same time, truck drivers and dockworkers were stuck in quarantine, reducing the availability of people to unload goods, further slowing the process.  The result: shipping costs increased by 350% since May 2020.

While America’s Republican lawmakers oppose vaccines, masks and any other policy to contain the pandemic, the rest of the world is trying to vaccinate its population.  China’s CoronaVac and Sinopharm vaccines account for almost half of the 7.3 billion Covid-19 vaccine doses delivered globally, and India has now administered over a billion doses of its generic Astra Zeneca vaccines.

The world is certainly flabbergasted that America’s leaders are not interested in unifying the country overcome political differences in order to combat the virus.  The government has spent over $4 trillion of the $6 trillion in Covid relief money, in the economy since the pandemic began, because lies and misinformation have prevented the country from achieving herd immunity.

Interestingly, the pandemic has caused Americans to reevaluate their priorities.  It showed them that it’s not worth it to risk their lives and the health of their families for a job, and for an employer who doesn’t treat them well, who does not pay a fair wage, and refuses to provide health insurance.  They have concluded that a good life is not just work, it consists of family, free time, and pleasure.  If the job does not offer a living wage and some time for pleasure, they don’t want the job. If their employers are spending millions for an 11minute trip into space, they deserve to at least spend some time with their families.

The Department of Labor (DOL) reported that 4 million (3%) of the US non-union  workforce quit their jobs in August and are trying to navigate the labor market. Many of them are switching industries and many are finding better deals.

Thousands of unionized workers have gone on strike at food plants operated by Kellogg’s, Nabisco and Frito-Lay over work hours, pay and benefits.  Recently, more than 24,000 Kaiser Permanente healthcare workers in California authorized a strike.  Ten thousand United Automobile Workers members at John Deere are also on strike, saying they were forced to work overtime while the company made record profits. 

A group of New York City taxi drivers launched a hunger strike last Wednesday demanding the city provide debt relief from their taxi medallion loans.  Over eleven thousand coal miners, on strike against Warrior Met in Alabama since April, are fighting to reverse concessions that were foisted on them in 2016 when BlackRock and other billionaire creditors set up Warrior Met Coal and took over mine operations with the aid of a bankruptcy court.

America is divided and will implode if Republican lawmakers continue to sow confusion and division concerning Covid.  Actual results show that the US vaccines work, and studies reveal that people hospitalized with COVID-19 are up to three times as likely to show signs of decline in brain function related to the virus than those infected who do not require that level of care.  

Brnovich asserted that the impact of vaccinations can’t be undone, but refuses to acknowledge that before the vaccine people were dying by the thousands, and that the vaccines stopped people from dying.  He and other republicans must think that the world is overpopulated, and that the virus should be used to control population growth.

The current political environment has revealed that hate and conspiracy is exciting, which is great for fund raising and gets people out in droves.  Conservative leaders plan to convert pandemic-era cultural divisions, from the big lie that the 2020 election was stolen, to black and brown voter disenfranchisement, to school curriculums that touch on race and discrimination, and the way schools define a scientific fact, into lasting political power. 

In response to the lawsuits on vaccination mandates Biden said: “This is not about freedom or personal choice. It’s about protecting yourself and those around you.”  

I totally agree but will add: It is your right to not take the vaccine but if you get Covid-19 or its variant the hospital will not admit you, since you have decided that protection is unnecessary.