I address you by your first name not out of disrespect, but because you have told me to do so, including once on the sidewalk outside my house.
You were our congresswoman then, and on a weekend afternoon, far from your home, you were visiting our homes, introducing yourself and asking what we needed.
It impressed a lot of us in town. And there are a lot of us Republicans who can flip through our phones and find a picture of ourselves standing beside our Democrat congresswoman. The fact that you cared to come, without fanfare, to introduce yourself, and to see where and how we lived, was appreciated, and it left the impression that you cared about us and our lives.
That distinguishes you from your predecessor.
And it is what leads me to write today.
Your predecessor left a mandate that all healthcare workers in New York must be vaccinated by September 26, or lose their jobs. Lose their jobs, their careers, be unable to support their families and, for good measure, be denied any unemployment benefits.
I write to tell you, were you to come door knocking in our town today, what you would hear about this.
You would hear heartbreak. You would see tears. You would witness desperation. And, among some, rage. Rage that government should dictate in people’s personal lives, and that it would so disrespect their service and contribution.
Ma’am, this is a horrific and unnecessary mandate that must be revoked or amended. I have heard that on city streets and in country valleys. I have heard people plead and weep, I have listened to their fears for the loss of careers and income. I have seen the difficult situations in which they have been put by your predecessor’s dictate.
And I have noticed that the people most apt to be destroyed by this are women and minorities, with a great percentage being single mothers.
Here’s what’s happening.
For a variety of reasons, African-Americans and cultural conservatives are less likely to be vaccinated than others in the population. That’s just a fact, all across the country. You’re not going to change that. What it means is that vaccine mandates are going to disproportionately impact African-Americans and social conservatives.
How does that impact the healthcare world?
African-Americans and social conservatives are the salt-of-the-earth people who make the healthcare world go ‘round. A black person is four times more likely to be an employee in a nursing home than a patient in a nursing home. Healthcare in your state’s cities is completely dependent on black people who disproportionately do the grunt work in every hospital you have. In the rural areas, that same work is done by folks who are cultural conservatives.
These people, in direct patient contact or in support roles, have served heroically and well through the pandemic. They have not only been on the frontline, they have been the key to our success. They have carried us on their backs. And they have mostly done it for relatively low pay.
All while being unvaccinated.
For months, because there was no vaccine. And for recent months, because they have chosen not to be vaccinated.
I don’t know why they have chosen that. It is their business. It is not mine, or yours, or their employers. The dignity of person is absolute, the control of one’s body is intensely and completely personal.
No matter what your predecessor said.
Suffice it to say that there are many tens of thousands of healthcare workers who, on principle, will not submit to a covid vaccination. And your predecessor’s mandate puts them in a terrible position.
It will strip them of their livelihoods. It will end their careers. It will impoverish their families. It will take away, for many of them, their life’s dream – to serve and care and cure.
To these people, you can’t imagine the pain and angst created by your predecessor’s looming mandate. You can’t comprehend what it means to a mother whose children look to her paycheck for their support, and who looks at her career as her life’s mission.
Your predecessor’s dictate is two weeks away from shattering tens of thousands of lives, and sabotaging a health care system that will lose a quarter to a third of its employees.
He did that. But you can change it. You can bring compassion and practicality to this matter. You can waive the mandate, or you can bring the requirement into line with schools and the government workplace – offer a testing option to those who are unvaccinated.
You came to our town once, to ask us what we thought about things. This is what my neighbors would tell you about this. They would ask for your help, they would plead for your understanding, they would warn of dire consequences for families and communities.
Thank you for listening. Continued success to you. And God bless you in your important work.