Details are thin, but Presidentish Joe Biden reportedly will suspend his vaccine mandate for federal workers.
According to a memo issued by the Biden administration, the “White House’s Office of Management and Budget is telling federal agencies they should hold off on suspending or firing federal workers for not complying with the vaccine mandate until after the holidays.”
This is a huge cave for an administration whose remaining anti-COVID effort is focused almost exclusively on the vaccine mandate.
Further lockdowns are out, according to one report. People have lost patience with social distancing and travel restrictions. And it’s probably not too much of an exaggeration to say that “Which famous person isn’t wearing a mask today?” has taken the place of “Who in Hollywood is secretly gay?” as America’s favorite gossip topic.
That leaves the mandate. So for the sake of public perception that Biden is doing something, no matter how ineffective or unconstitutional, he can’t let go of it.
But from here, it sure looks like Biden’s temporary suspension could well become permanent.
While 92% of federal workers have received at least one dose, it’s unknown how many are fully dosed as Biden’s mandate requires. How many are refusing both shots and how many got one shot but then said “Enough!” are both unknown.
“Only” 60% of Americans are fully vaccinated. If the same percentage holds true for federal workers, that’s four in ten who don’t meet Biden’s mandate.
The federal government would have trouble functioning if 8% of them were suspended or fired. If that turned out to be 40%, the whole damn thing would shut down — during a supply chain crisis, I don’t need to add.
With resistance to the mandate growing, it’s impossible to guess exactly how many federal workers will refuse second shots, or continue to resist even the first shot. But a safe guess would be “more.”
With all that in mind, is Biden really going to reinstate his mandate just as soon as the holidays are over?
If federal workers can’t be mandated — with all of Washington’s pretensions about how valuable they are — then why should ordinary Americans be subject to a mandate?
Politically, which would be worse: Caving on the unpopular mandate completely and looking like fools, or pushing ahead in the face of increasing resistance?
These are the questions that must be roiling the West Wing, particularly since Biden’s approval ratings are deeper underwater than the wreck of the USS Indianapolis.
Whatever answer they decide on, one thing is clear: Mandates risk bringing the country to another halt we simply can’t afford, and now that Biden has allowed one crack in his COVID dam, there will be more.
UPDATE: Managing Super Editor Paula Bolyard came up with the complete White House memo, which you can read here.
The memo brags — agency by agency — what percentage of federal workers have been vaccinated. However, it’s still only one dose, not two.
I wonder if the White House even knows how many of federal workers are fully vaccinated with both doses. Or maybe they do know, and that’s why they’re sticking to the single-dose numbers.