President Joe Biden recently extended the US national emergency for covid-19. A confrontation between truckers protesting Canadian covid mandates and the government in Ottawa has turned ugly. The debate over covid mandates has turned toward authoritarian tactics rather than the merits of the mandates. Irrespective of the debate on the merits of covid mandates over the past two years, at the present time, covid mandates have become a solution in search of a problem.
Figure 1: New Confirmed Covid-19 Cases in Lubbock County, Texas.
Source: DSHS COVID-19 Dashboard, Texas Department of State Health Services, modified daily, https://dshs.texas.gov/coronavirus/additionaldata.aspx.
Figure 1 illustrates the rapid decline of the Omicron outbreak over the past three weeks. New cases in Lubbock County, Texas, are near zero in a population of over three hundred thousand. Yet a Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) mandate requiring healthcare workers to be vaccinated against covid-19 still stands. The stated goal of the vaccine mandate is to protect vaccinated workers against unvaccinated workers and to protect patients against unvaccinated workers. It has been previously argued that if the vaccine worked and protected people against covid-19, then vaccinated workers and patients would have nothing to fear from unvaccinated people. It has been demonstrated that transmission of covid-19 is about as likely to be from a vaccinated person as an unvaccinated person. However, even these arguments are no longer necessary, as there is no longer any disease in Lubbock County to spread. The situation is similar everywhere in the world. Covid cases are in rapid decline everywhere. Although it is likely there will be a new variant in the future with a new outbreak of cases, it is very unlikely that the existing mandates will protect anyone from this new variant.
Irrespective of whether covid mandates offered any benefit in the past, there is zero benefit from these mandates going forward. The mandates have become an authoritarian symbol of fealty—like kissing the pinky ring. The mandates must be obeyed because authoritarians in government have declared the mandates to be law—often without any discussion or debate from the representative bodies charged with making law.
I am a practicing pulmonologist. As I was writing this article, I received an email requesting help with the critical physician shortages in twenty of the fifty states in the US. How does the existing CMS covid-19 vaccine mandate help with this problem? I am sixty-eight years old. I could retire if I wanted to retire. I am part of a significant cohort of practitioners that work out of satisfaction rather than need. The CMS covid-19 vaccine mandate has driven practitioners into retirement and will continue to drive practitioners into retirement at a time when there are shortages of practitioners. To what benefit to society?
Some of the government authoritarians in Ottawa and Washington, DC, may think they have the upper hand at the current moment. As usual, government authoritarians are very shortsighted. At some point in the future, the authoritarians are going to need the cooperation of the very workers they are persecuting. How is that going to work out? A recent medicine or nursing graduate may not be in a position to resist due to student debt. However, older practitioners, who have the greatest experience, are in a position to resist. All workers, whether they be Canadian truckers or Texas physicians, are able to slow roll. Furthermore, what happens to future entry of new trainees? Young people may be disinclined to spend years on training at great expense when one’s livelihood can be revoked by some would-be queen of hearts.
Figure 2 illustrates the covid-19 case trend in Canada. Was this trend really worth a mounted policeman toppling an elderly disabled woman? Rather than ending mandates that clearly are serving no current benefit to society, Canadian authoritarians are debating making the so-called emergency authority permanent while drooling over the sales of confiscated trucks. Al Capone was supposed to have claimed, “You can get more with a kind word and a gun than with just a kind word.” Prime Minister Trudeau seems to have forgotten the kind-word part of the lesson.
I hope the US authoritarians will learn from the mistakes of the Canadian authoritarians, but I am pessimistic in the short term. Perhaps if Biden’s poll numbers continue to drop, he might reconsider his recent extension of covid mandates.
Author: Gilbert Berdine, MD is an associate professor of medicine at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center and an affiliate of the Free Market Institute at Texas Tech University.