Biden and Governors Collaborate to Incentivize Vaccines, CDC Eases Mask Recommendations

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By Quentin Choy

May 13, 2021

On May 11, President Biden held a virtual meeting with a bipartisan group of governors to discuss COVID-19 vaccinations. Included in the meeting was Governor Mills of Maine (D), Governor DeWine of Ohio (R), Governor Cox of Utah (R), Governor Walz of Minnesota (D), Governor Baker of Massachusetts (R), and Governor Lujan Grisham of New Mexico (D). 

Following the recent authorization of the Pfizer vaccine for children between 12 and 15 years old by the FDA, things are looking up for the country. Ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft are also offering free rides to vaccination sites from May 24 to July 4.

While much of the country has been vaccinated, many are still holding off. In an effort to reach herd immunity and to return to normal life, governors and state governments are incentivizing those skeptical about getting vaccinated in a variety of ways.

In Maine, the government is offering “free tickets to a ballgame or a race event, a free fishing license or hunting license, or gift card for outdoor gear.” in collaboration with public entities and private companies like L.L. Bean and the Portland Sea Dogs.

States like New Jersey and Connecticut are offering free drinks to those who receive the vaccine. In West Virginia, Governor Jim Justice and his government are giving $100 savings bond to those between 16 and 35 years old who get vaccinated.

Governor Jim Justice of West Virginia announcing his policy of giving $100 bonds to 16 to 35 year-olds who get vaccinated. Courtesy of BBC.

In Ohio, the National Guard is going into senior housing facilities to vaccinate seniors where they live. The state is also deploying mobile vaccination sites and health departments to peoples’ homes, offering vaccinations. Governor DeWine also implemented five $1 million vaccine lotteries in the state in which those who choose to get vaccinated are entered to possibly win $1 million. The money comes from existing federal coronavirus relief funds.

DeWine commented on the vaccine lottery, saying “it’s the people in the middle who are going to determine whether we get the numbers that we need to tamp this virus down. That’s where the game is, that’s where the action is. And so, being able to create an added incentive that may appeal to some of those individuals seemed well worth the money.”

Governor Cox of Utah may have pushed President Biden to consider loosening mask policy by telling the president that “I would like to say that we have fully vaccinated people; we should start acting like it.  And that’s a big motivation get the unvaccinated to want to get vaccinated.”

Governor Spencer Cox of Utah (R) told President Biden that mask-wearing after people have received their vaccine is counterproductive and disincentivizes vaccination. Courtesy of WSJ.

Cox told Biden that continued mask mandates deincentivize people from getting vaccinated if their life will not return to normal post-vaccination.

The Biden administration considered Cox’ stand on masks deincentivizing vaccinations and changed position, saying that “the rule is now simple: get vaccinated or wear a mask until you do.”

The CDC and its director, Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky updated its recommendations, saying “we have all longed for this moment. If you are fully vaccinated, you can start doing the things that you had stopped doing because of the pandemic.”

Campaigns in different states have begun to urge people to get vaccinated with no more mask-wearing as an incentive like this Stay Safe MN campaign tweet from Minnesota Governor Tim Walz.

The CDC recommendation and the changing of the Biden administration’s mask policy comes at a good time before summer when people want to travel and do things with family and friends, returning to a sense of normalcy. With people being incentivized to receive vaccinations, hopefully more people who are hesitant will decide to receive the vaccine. Each vaccine brings us closer to normal life.

I’m thrilled with the Biden administration’s decision to reduce mask policy to increase rates of vaccinations, and I am proud of the collective effort of governors of both parties to creatively and effectively vaccinate their states. This is one of those rare instances where government is effective in its deliverance of help to those in need.

Image Courtesy of FOX 13

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