Although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced new guidelines on Thursday that gave fully vaccinated Americans the go-ahead to remove masks in almost every situation, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-California) said that the House of Representatives would not be relaxing its rules anytime soon due to Republican members’ refusal to get vaccinated.
The new guidance from the CDC states that individuals who are fully vaccinated — that is, they have received two shots of either the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines, or the single shot of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, and it has been two weeks since their final injection — do not have to wear masks outdoors or indoors, except when they are in highly-crowded areas.
“If you are fully vaccinated, you can resume activities that you did prior to the pandemic,” the CDC website says, while noting that people still have to follow rules and regulations that are in place within their local jurisdictions.
After the CDC issued the updated guidance, reporters asked Pelosi whether mask rules would be eased within the House of Representatives. “No,” Pelosi said. House members are currently required to wear a mask on the House floor.
“Are they all vaccinated?” she added, referring to lawmakers in the House.
Seventy-two percent of House members are currently vaccinated, but there is a wide discrepancy between both parties on their separate rates of vaccination. While every member of the Democratic Party’s 219-member delegation is fully vaccinated, only 95 out of 212 Republicans are the same, amounting to just 44.8 percent of their caucus.
It isn’t as if lawmakers aren’t at risk of the virus. Earlier this year, Rep. Ron Wright, a Republican from Texas, passed away after being diagnosed with coronavirus. Wright was not vaccinated.
The rate at which Republicans have received their vaccinations is comparable to the number of Americans overall who have received at least one shot (47 percent) to protect against the virus. But while lawmakers in Washington D.C. have been able to get vaccinated for several months now, most adults in the U.S. have only been eligible to get their shots since mid-April.
The vaccinations so far appear to be effective in suppressing the virus. Since April 14, a month ago, the seven-day average of new cases of coronavirus being reported per day has dropped by around 45.3 percent. The seven-day average death rate has also decreased by close to 18.4 percent.
Most Americans have either received one or two doses of vaccines, but there remains a large segment that says they will absolutely not get vaccinated (17 percent), and a comparable portion who aren’t sure yet (14 percent), according to a recent Economist/YouGov poll.
Much like in Congress, hesitancy against the vaccines in the U.S. is strongest among those on the right. Within that same poll, 42 percent who identify as conservatives said they are either unsure about getting their shots or won’t do so, compared to just 13 percent of self-identified liberals and 26 percent of moderates who say the same.
Conservatives are less likely to get vaccinated, some medical observers have opined, because they view it as a way to show their loyalty to former President Donald Trump. Indeed, data appears to show that states with higher rates of Trump voters also have lower vaccination rates.
While the vast majority of Americans have received or are planning to get vaccinated, the rate at which people are refusing to get their shots is troubling. It’s estimated that between 70 to 90 percent of the population must gain antibody resistance to COVID-19 in order to reach herd immunity. If every person who is hesitant in the Economist/YouGov poll’s findings decided against getting the vaccine, that would mean the U.S. would be on the lower end of or slightly below that suggested threshold.