Wednesday brought good news about vaccines and vaccine mandates.
The Senate voted on Wednesday night to overturn President Joe Biden's mandate that businesses with more than 100 employees require vaccinations or routine COVID-19 testing. The 52–48 vote—Sens. Joe Manchin (D–W.Va.) and Jon Tester (D–Mont.) were the only Democrats to support the effort—is the latest blow to Biden's vaccine mandate, which was announced in September and was supposed to take effect next month.
With Wednesday's vote in the Senate, the mandate is now collapsing within all three branches of the federal government. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit put the vaccine mandate on hold last month while it conducts a more thorough legal review of the policy. In issuing that stay, a unanimous three-judge panel called the mandate for private employers "fatally flawed" and "staggeringly broad."
Meanwhile, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which is supposed to be tasked with enforcing the mandate, has announced that it will not act until the legality of the mandate is determined. On a more basic level, there's no practical way for OSHA, a relatively small federal agency with fewer than 2,000 employees, to actually enforce the mandate. Before suspending its efforts, OSHA was openly admitting it would have to rely on workplace snitches to get the job done.
The legislative attempt at undoing the mandate is probably the least likely path for success since the bill faces opposition in the House (and, ultimately, from Biden's veto pen). Still, the effort is important as yet another signal that Biden's attempt to force private businesses to do the bidding of the state is unwelcome.
Sen. Mike Braun (R–Ind.), who introduced the resolution under the terms of the Congressional Review Act, said it was necessary for Congress to "stand up against this federal overreach that will wreak havoc on our recovering economy and trample on the rights of millions of Americans."
While Biden's mandate is falling apart, however, it remains true that vaccines are the most effective way to protect yourself against COVID-19 and end the pandemic. Wednesday brought more good news on that front as well, with preliminary data from Pfizer/BioNTech indicating that their vaccine is effective against the new omicron variant.
The researchers tested the new variant against antibodies produced by people one month after they had been inoculated with a third booster dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. They report that the boosted level of antibodies "provides a similar level of neutralizing antibodies to Omicron as is observed after two doses against wild-type and other variants that emerged before Omicron. These antibody levels are associated with high efficacy against both the wild-type virus and these variants."…
Keep firmly in mind that these are very preliminary laboratory results that need to be confirmed by real-world epidemiological evidence with respect to breakthrough infections and disease severity. Nevertheless, these results corroborate that people who have already gotten two doses of COVID-19 vaccines or have already recovered from a prior COVID-19 infection should go get a booster shot and that people who are not yet fully vaccinated should delay no further.
Combined with the early indications that omicron might be less deadly—though more transmissible—than earlier versions of COVID-19, the Pfizer news seemingly confirms that vaccines remain the best way to combat the pandemic. American officials should reject the urge to follow some European countries into full-blown panic mode over omicron. Heavy-handed policies already adopted in response to omicron, like ineffective travel bans, should be lifted immediately.
And here's maybe the best news of all to emerge in the past 24 hours: The New York Times reports that more than 200 million Americans are now fully vaccinated. No federal mandate necessary.
You may click the bride. The New York Times explores how celebrations of love might soon transcend meatspace:
Think guest lists that number in the thousands. Gift registries that feature NFTs, or non-fungible tokens. Maybe even destination weddings in space.
"They're going to take their friends on a space rocket," [Sandy Hammer, a digital wedding planner] said, adding that she envisions wedding parties globe-trotting virtually. "A bride can transport her guests into the metaverse: 'I want my morning session to be in Italy, my evening session to be in Paris.'"
Nathalie Cadet-James, a wedding planner and designer based in Miami, is approaching the metaverse with "a beginner's mind of excitement," and trying to anticipate how her role will change. "I think my role might be more like a producer or film director," Ms. Cadet-James said. "I could create a set that I've enhanced. Flowers might come out of the ground as you're walking into the space. I would add whimsy and fantasy to it — because we could."
The number of workers seeking unemployment fell to the lowest weekly level since 1969 as layoffs have been dramatically reduced by a tight labor market, The Wall Street Journal reports:
Initial jobless claims, a proxy for layoffs, fell to 184,000 in the week ended Dec. 4, the lowest level since September 1969, the Labor Department said Thursday. That was close to a recent record total of 194,000 recorded in late November.
The decline in new claims is an indication that employers are reluctant to lay off workers at a time when jobs are plentiful, consumer demand is high and the pool of prospective workers remains lower than before the pandemic.
• Biden issued an executive order that commits the federal government to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
• The Supreme Court could deliver a blow to the power of the regulatory state.
• The defense has rested in the trial of Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes.
• Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D–Va.), a moderate probably best known for her colorful analysis of her party's results in the 2020 election, could be the big loser in Virginia's redistricting battle. Yet another example of how gerrymandering is used to punish interesting politicians.
• Want to improve city parks? Privatize them.
• The "war on Christmas" gets real.
• Sanna Marin, Finland's 36-year-old prime minister, issued a public apology after clubbing all night:
Finland's Prime Minister is 36 years old, went out clubbing till 4am, left her work phone at home and was therefore unreachable to get a text telling her she needed to quarantine. https://t.co/AUYNYtCxsU
— Neri Zilber (@NeriZilber) December 8, 2021