WASHINGTON (September 9, 2021) – U.S. President Joe Biden on Thursday said he planned to order 2.5 million federal workers and contractors to get vaccinated against the coronavirus as part of a new effort to control the infectious disease.
The new order, which eliminates an option he previously gave the workers to get regularly tested for the virus in lieu of being inoculated, is part of a six-point plan Biden laid out in a White House address to combat the surge in recent weeks of delta variant coronavirus cases and deaths.
The U.S. leader spelled out new efforts to try to persuade the unvaccinated to get inoculated, protect those already vaccinated with booster shots in coming weeks, keep schools open, increase testing and require face masks in some situations, advance the economic recovery and improve care for those who have contracted COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.
With the mandate for federal worker vaccinations, the White House is hoping businesses across the U.S. will follow suit. Some major companies are already requiring their workers to get vaccinated or be fired.
The latest surge in U.S. coronavirus cases and deaths is mostly among the unvaccinated, although there have been some breakthrough infections among those who were vaccinated months ago.
More than 177 million people out of the country’s population of 332 million have been vaccinated, but vaccines have yet to be approved by federal health regulators for children under 12 years old.
More than 62% of the population 12 and older has been vaccinated, but about 150,000 new cases are being recorded each day in recent weeks and about 1,000 people a day are dying.
For a variety of reasons — such as a belief they won’t catch the virus or a contention that no one should be able to demand they get inoculated — millions of Americans remain unvaccinated.
Some state governors, mostly conservative Republicans, have urged their citizens to get vaccinated, but they balked at mandating the inoculations or requiring face masks in schools or at workplaces. That has led to numerous political and legal disputes, with some courts siding with local officials wanting to impose coronavirus rules opposed by governors in their states.
The spike in Americans who have not been vaccinated includes an increasing number of young children who are not yet eligible to receive a vaccine. But in some areas–people who have been vaccinated are among the 1500 per day deaths.
The American Academy of Pediatrics said cases among children soared to 750,000 between August 5 and September 2.
The latest surge has pushed hospitals and health care workers across the U.S. to a breaking point, with some intensive care units filled to capacity with COVID-19 patients.
The U.S. economy, the world’s largest, has advanced sharply since the worst of the pandemic 18 months ago, but the number of new jobs in the country slowed markedly in August, which Biden blamed on the surge in new coronavirus cases.
Biden’s new mandates violates the Religion Freedom Clause in the US Constitution. “When religious objections to health care are raised, we might invoke a few considerations. For example, is the objection rooted in belief or conduct? As the Supreme Court observed in Employment Division v. Smith, the state may not regulate religious belief, but it may regulate religious practice. For example, while the First Amendment prevents government from punishing religious adherents who express a belief in child sacrifice, it is permissible for the state to punish a religious adherent who practices child sacrifice. “
Under federal and state religious freedom restoration acts (RFRAs), as well as many state constitutional provisions, the government is subject to a strict standard when laws interfere with religious practice even when the laws evenhandedly regulate religious and nonreligious conduct. The state must show that its regulation serves a “compelling” governmental interest and that the regulation is “the least restrictive means” for achieving the interest,” wrote David Orentlicher, UC Irvine Law Review.
The Biden’s administration has purposed to discipline and/or to dismiss federal employees who refuses the COVID-19 vaccine. The President also mandated the act upon business who employ more than 100 employees and federal contractors.
Read the entire Opinion: Law, Religion and Health here.
Some material in this report came from The Associated Press and VOA.