Last month, the Biden administration announced that the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration will be mandating all employers with 100 or more employees require vaccinations or weekly negative covid tests. White House press secretary Jen Psaki previously claimed there would be no federal mandate requiring “a single vaccination credential.” To counter this, this past Monday, Governor Abbott issued Executive Order no. GA-40, prohibiting vaccine mandates; Abbott explained “The COVID-19 vaccine is safe, effective, and our best defense against the virus, but should remain voluntary and never forced.” The Model State Emergency Powers Act (MSEHPA) gives each state government the power to “suspend regulations….quarantine individuals and enforce vaccinations.” Federal and state legislation are clearly conflicting.
In response, Southwest Airlines announced they would comply with the White House mandate and have required all pilots to be fully vaccinated by December 8th. In the past week, Southwest has canceled over 1,000 flights, claiming the cancelations were due to weather and staffing issues. The disruptions began, however, after the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association, which represents over 9,000 pilots, requested a federal court to block the airline’s vaccination requirement. While some analysts attributed the cancelations to protests over vaccine mandates, others linked them to ongoing problems with Southwest’s current aggressive expansion, as well as general labor shortages. The Federal Aviation Administration claimed in a tweet that none of the “cancellations were related to vaccine mandates.”
Many opposed to the vaccine mandates have discussed the importance of medical privacy, referencing the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, what most Americans know as HIPAA. This, however, has its own difficulties; HIPPA is criticized for allowing the authorization of protected health information to assist threats to public health if disclosing the information is necessary to the benefit of the public. “In the event of a public health emergency or terrorist attack, HIPAA provides certain exceptions where disclosure of PHI [Personal Health Information] without prior authorization is permitted.” Medical privacy acts have remained largely untouched since 2006. Once again, the federal government has proved itself unprepared to face a national health emergency and we, the people, have failed to hold our government accountable for ensuring our personal liberties. It is time to reassess our legal protections.