CNN: Capitol Hill Dems 100% vaccinated. Republicans ... not so much

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

Presumably, CNN intended this report to backstop Nancy Pelosi’s decision to retain and enforce a mask mandate in the House of Representatives. Instead, it demonstrates the decision the entire country must make. Should the burden for transmission rest with the vaccinated or shift to the unvaccinated?

Congress appears to be the laboratory for that process, which makes them useful for once:

Although the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Thursday that people fully vaccinated against Covid-19 do not need to wear masks or practice social distancing indoors or outdoors except under special circumstances, the House mask requirement will remain in place until all members and floor staff are fully vaccinated.

“No,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said when asked if the rule mandating masks unless a member is speaking on the House floor would be modified. She then asked, “Are they all vaccinated?”

The answer, among Democrats across both chambers, is a 100% vaccination rate. For Republicans, it’s a different story — with at least 44.8% of House members vaccinated and at least 92% of senators.

In a follow-up to a March House-wide survey and interviews with members, CNN has confirmed that 312 of the 431 members of the House — just over 72% of the 431-member body — have now received a Covid-19 vaccination. Of that, all 219 House Democrats have reported being vaccinated. Among the Republican conference, 95 of the 212 members — 44.8% — have said they are vaccinated.

And … so? As someone who was masking when the CDC advised against it, I’m in better position than most to say that the risk should be transferred to those who refuse to vaccinate. I might still choose to mask up in certain situations, in large part to protect my immune-suppressed wife, but that will be my choice. There is no need to mandate me as a vaccinated person to mask up on the basis that people choose not to vaccinate, a standard that would in essence become a permanent mask mandate and put the burden of irresponsibility on responsible citizens.

Where precisely is the risk here anyway? It’s on those who choose not to get vaccinated. As the CDC finally admitted yesterday and the science has shown for months, the vaccinated have such a surpassingly microscopic risk of symptomatic infection and contagious status that no further protection is necessary. If the unvaccinated feel at risk over unmasked vaccinated people, they can either (a) mask up themselves, or (b) get vaccinated, as the vaccines are now ubiquitously available, especially for members of Congress.

If the Republicans and staffers who choose not to get vaccinated end up with an acute case of COVID-19, that’s on them. If some members choose to wear masks on the floors of Congress, that’s their choice as well. But the standard can’t be mandates for masking and isolation until 100% vaccination for a return to normal, because that’s a recipe for continued stasis. That’s not practical for Americans in any sphere, not even in Congress where stasis and gridlock are the everyday realities.

The universal availability of vaccines plus the clear science has changed the calculation. The burden should and will shift on transmissions to those who choose not to get the vaccine, while the vaccinated get back to normal life. That’s exactly how it should be, even in Congress.

PS: Get vaccinated, Republicans.