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GOP lawmakers weaponize COVID variant fears to attack immigrants

Republicans are very mad that the CDC is recommending mask use again.

By Josh Israel - July 28, 2021
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Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY)

Congressional Republicans are very upset about the threat coronavirus variants pose — but only when it comes to immigrants.

After the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued updated guidance for how to curb the COVID-19 pandemic in the face of deadly new variants, GOP lawmakers attacked them as dangerous and unnecessary.

“First they told us don’t wear a mask. Then they told us wear a mask. Then wear two masks. Then get the vaccine and you don’t have to wear a mask. Now they tell us never mind, wear a mask,” complained Minority Whip Steve Scalise on Wednesday. “This isn’t about science — it’s about government control.”

“At this point they might as well mandate wearing flip-flops along with the masks,” mocked Tennessee Rep. Diana Harshbarger.

The CDC lost its credibility a long time ago, now it’s just a joke,” wrote Arizona Rep. Andy Biggs.

“I am concerned that the CDC’s guidance will erode public trust in the three safe & effective American vaccines that protect against COVID-19. Americans don’t need any more government-imposed lockdowns when these vaccines are widely available,” said Iowa Rep. Ashley Hinson.

Several other GOP lawmakers offered similar thoughts on social media.

But while they were upset that the CDC was responding to new data, which indicates the highly contagious delta variant can be caught and spread even by some vaccinated people, Republicans were quick to point to it as a reason to oppose immigration and demonize migrants.

“I oppose what they’re recommending right now,” Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso — a doctor and the number three Republican in the Senate leadership — told Fox News on Wednesday, referring to the new mask recommendations.

“The real problem right now is our porous southern border,” he claimed, without providing any evidence. “That is the biggest influx of the coronavirus and variations of that into the country.”

The Republican minority on the House Committee on Homeland Security tweeted, “As powerful variants continue to spread around the world and thousands of migrants continue to illegally cross the border, preserving COVID-19 pandemic recovery in the U.S. is exactly why it’s now so important to keep Title 42 intact at the southern border.”

Title 42 allows the federal government to expel migrants on arrival, ostensibly to curb the spread of infectious diseases.

“As #COVID19 variants continues to rise, the border crisis is becoming a major public health crisis,” Florida Rep. Carlos Gimenez concurred. “It’s unconscionable to me that the Biden administration drops the hammer of health regulations on the American people while letting unscreened migrants enter the country.”

“With the summer heat rising, illegal migrant crossings SHOULD be decreasing,” wrote Texas Rep. Beth Van Duyne. “Not under Joe Biden and #BorderCzarKamala. Unaccompanied minors, drugs, and now the Lambda variant are flooding across our border at record numbers.”

“President Biden’s incompetence at his open border led to the Lambda Variant spreading through Texas,” charged Georgia Rep. Jody Hice. “The #BidenBorderCrisis is reckless AND deadly!”

The CDC’s new guidance simply urged vaccinated Americans to wear masks in public indoor spaces if they live in communities with high rates of transmission or live with unvaccinated or immunocompromised people. It also urged universal mask use in schools.

“The delta variant is showing every day its willingness to outsmart us and to be an opportunist in areas where we have not shown a fortified response against it,” agency director Rochelle Walensky told reporters.

She noted that vaccinated people “continue to represent a very small amount of transmission in the country” but can carry as large a viral load of the delta variant as the unvaccinated do.

According to the Washington Post, the number of new daily coronavirus cases in the U.S. has more than quadrupled this month, from 13,000 to over 56,000, as the delta variant became dominant.

At the beginning of July, Republicans dismissed the delta variant as nothing to worry about.

“No one cares about the Delta Variant or any other variant. They are over covid & there is no amount of fear based screaming from the media that will ever force Americans to shut down again,” tweeted Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene on July 5. “Forced masks and vaccines will cause Dems to lose big. All voters are over covid.”

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.


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