Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson on Thursday criticized President Joe Biden’s newly announced vaccine mandate, calling it “wrong and immoral.”
Biden’s new order requires all employers with 100 or more employees to have a fully vaccinated workforce or test unvaccinated workers weekly. Bronson also said that the municipality “will not comply” with the president’s directive, although a spokesman for the mayor later said attorneys for the city are still evaluating whether it applies to Anchorage municipal employees.
“The idea that government would mandate businesses to force personal medical decisions on their employees is flat out wrong and immoral, and beyond the authority of the President,” Bronson said in an emailed statement.
Bronson has resisted calls to urge Anchorage residents to get vaccinated, saying it is not the government’s role to do so.
“The personal choice to vaccinate or not is up to the individual person,” Bronson said in Thursday’s statement.
“I will not mandate that businesses require their employees to vaccinate,” Bronson said. “The Municipality will not comply with this directive of the President that will invite endless litigation; this is a obvious attempt to shift the national focus from President Biden’s devastating failure in Afghanistan, and we will not violate the privacy and independent healthcare decisions of our citizens in the process.”
The president’s directive does not mention city or state government workforces.
The city attorney’s office is “carefully reviewing the details of President Biden’s announcement and evaluating potential impacts it may have on the municipal workforce and Anchorage businesses,” Corey Young, spokesman for the mayor’s office, said by email Thursday. “However, until (the Occupational Safety and Health Administration) issues the emergency temporary standard, a thorough legal review cannot begin.”
Anchorage has more than 2,000 municipal employees.
The president’s directive will affect more than 80 million workers nationwide and is an effort to stop the surge of highly contagious delta variant, according to the Biden administration.
Bronson is a self-described conservative, and he joined many other conservative politicians in immediately condemning Biden’s new policy. They included Alaska Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy, who in a tweet Thursday said it is “ridiculous and unenforceable,” adding, “If there was ever a case for the 25th Amendment …” — suggesting Biden should be removed from office.
Young stressed that the mayor’s office believes the directive will “invite endless litigation.”
It would affect “a lot of businesses in Anchorage municipality of 100 or more. That’s a huge deal,” said Young.
The mayor’s office did not have an estimate of how many residents and businesses would be impacted.
Alaska is experiencing record high COVID-19-related hospitalizations and health care leaders are issuing desperate warnings about the state’s increasingly strained health care system.
Bronson opposed the city’s COVID-19 restrictions and mask mandates issued by previous administrations, and has said he will not take similar steps. He also said that he would not take the vaccine at this time. Recent messages to the public from his administration have stopped short of encouraging vaccinations or wearing masks.
Bronson called the president’s directive a “one-size-fits-all” approach that ignores natural immunity in previously infected people. A recent study shows that having both the vaccine and natural immunity offers the best protection against another COVID-19 infection.
Bronson this week also suggested that hospital capacity is suffering due to a staffing shortage made worse by requiring employees to be vaccinated, though Anchorage hospital officials said they have not seen that so far.
Bronson said he is focusing on giving Anchorage residents information and said he is committed to fighting COVID-19.
“My administration is committed to giving access to Anchorage residents with all the resources and information they need to make informed personal decisions for themselves and their families,” he said in Thursday’s statement.