On Jan. 5, U.S. Rep. Ashley Hinson appeared at the Good Samaritan Society in St. Ansgar to inspect the facility and discuss regulations concerning COVID-19 testing, PPE, protocols and how everything has evolved within a year’s time, among other hot topic issues.
“The biggest thing was the vaccine push,” Administrator Kelsey Bundy said of Hinson’s visit. “And our staffing struggles. I think everyone is having them.”
“Specifically with the availability of the vaccine,” Hinson said. “The vaccination rates are very high. As a result, we’ve seen a huge impact on the lack of spread among residents of the pandemic. That’s crucial."
“I think if we’ve learned anything in the last year is there will be variants of the disease, and some of them are going to be more contagious than others. Some of them are going to be more severe than others. The vaccine certainly helps. We’ve had a lot of conversations about the rate of hospitalization when you’re vaccinated, the severity of an illness when you have it. From a public health perspective, I think we’ve done a lot to make sure we’re ready for whatever variant comes next” said Hinson.
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Hinson added she has had COVID-19, she is vaccinated against COVID-19, and she has received her booster shot.
“What we’re seeing with the surge of this (Omicron) variant, if you’re vaccinated it’s less severe,” Hinson said. “That’s the story I want to continue to talk about.”
Despite Hinson advocating for vaccination, she also decries what she considers too much regulation.
“Some of the standards required for (work) training are very restrictive,” Hinson said of an issue at the Good Society Society. “Some of them are state based, but there might be a federal nexus there. People are already burned out.”
According to Hinson, Federal vaccine mandates are not the right call regardless of the number of employees at a business. In this case she is referring to the OSHA policy that will require employers with 100 or more employees to require employees to provide proof of vaccination, or face weekly testing and a requirement to wear masks at work. Non-compliance is a fine of $136,000. School boards are calling special meetings to meet these policy requirements.
Despite her concern for public health in light of the persistence of COVID-19, Hinson believes the government must avoid closing schools, businesses and public places like parks.
“I think it’s important to keep kids in school,” she said. “We have to live within this pandemic again. We can’t continue to shut things down.”
According to Hinson, vaccination policy should be a personal choice regardless of the type of industry, and this mandate will fuel uncertainty and fear caused by a worker shortage, which is a side effect of the pandemic.
“Let businesses make the decision for themselves,” Hinson said. “That empowers down to the worker level, because workers can make the decision on whether or not they want to stay at an employer, as it should be. I think people should have the right to work wherever they want to work, but then employers know it’s up to them to have a good work environment, have a good education system, have a good availability of the vaccine if that’s what they’re choosing to require or offer to their employees. I think that’s the level it should be at.”
Hinson also questions the focus of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.
“My biggest concern is when we’re spending $1.9 trillion, when only nine percent of that bill goes to public health measures when we’re in the middle of a pandemic,” she said. “That’s a concern for me with what’s happening in Washington (D.C), especially when a few weeks ago before the holidays – my parents are in their 70s – I’m vaccinated, boosted and I’ve had COVID, but I still wanted to get tested because I was going to be around my family.”
But Hinson said she couldn’t get a COVID-19 test, and she believes ARPA should have been spent on public health testing and vaccination education.
According to the U.S. Department of the Treasury website, “the American Rescue Plan provides $350 billion in emergency funding for eligible state, local, territorial, and Tribal governments to respond to the COVID-19 emergency and bring back jobs.”
Despite disagreements about how the money is spent, Hinson plans to spread the message about vaccination, which in her eyes is one step in keeping the world open during a pandemic.
Jason W. Selby is the community editor for the Mitchell Country Press News. He can be reached at 515-971-6217, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.