When something is killing Americans at an astonishing rate, and millions are willfully and dramatically increasing the risk for their fellow citizens, the federal government is compelled to take drastic measures to stop the madness.

Isn’t that something all Americans could agree on?

Couched in those terms, yes.

But, when that “something” has become a political football slathered in the grease of misinformation, the gullible, selfish or misguided refuse to become part of the solution.

No one wanted the administration of President Joe Biden to have to issue an executive order requiring vaccination or weekly testing for 100 million Americans.

But the COVID-19 pandemic — at least 18 months after it began and five months after a safe and highly effective vaccine first became widely available — is still killing more than 1,000 Americans a day on average.

That number would be extraordinarily lower if all eligible people, those 12 years of age and over, would take one simple, free step: Get fully vaccinated.

Across the country, 27% have refused. It’s even worse here in Indiana; where 46% — more than 2.6 million Hoosiers — have crossed their arms and shook their heads.

The coronavirus is deadly to the economy, as well. The cost in lost business and extra spending for PPE and sanitation is incalculable.

Hospitalizations for COVID-19 are often tragic and always expensive.

According to an analysis by The Peterson Center on Healthcare and the Kaiser Family Foundation, from June through August, preventable COVID-19 hospitalizations among unvaccinated adults cost $5.7 billion. The study found that 98.6% of those hospitalized because of COVID-19 symptoms during that period were not vaccinated.

Vaccination is kryptonite to the coronavirus. Yet tens of millions of Americans are still resisting the simple step of getting the shots. A very small percentage of these folks have legitimate medical reasons to decline the vaccine. The overwhelming majority do not.

For months, the federal government and many state and local governments have worked tirelessly to educate the public about the safety, effectiveness and free availability of the vaccine. Still, tens of millions ignore the science and the facts, instead heeding politically-charged misinformation and falling under the spell of know-nothing social media know-it-alls.

So the Biden administration was finally compelled to take the step no one wanted it to take: Issue a vaccine mandate.

Except that, for most, it’s not really a mandate. Unless you’re an employee of the federal government, you can still refuse to roll up your sleeve and opt for weekly testing instead.

The directive, unfortunately, will be logistically problematic and financially painful for many businesses, particularly those with high percentages of unvaccinated employees. On the other hand, the order will provide employers a framework and shared rationale for vaccine/testing requirements.

Emergency temporary standards to enact Biden’s executive order will be created by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration within the next few weeks. Legal challenges, surely, will proliferate. Whether the near-mandate will ultimately stand up to scrutiny in the courts is unclear.

But this much is crystal clear: Until the vast majority of Americans are vaccinated, we’ll die by the hundreds every single day. And we’ll die needlessly.

— From the editorial board of the Anderson Herald Bulletin.

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