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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced she won’t implement a mandate for lawmakers to get vaccinated during a press conference Thursday, saying all she can do is “hope that science would guide them to protect themselves.”
The California Democrat’s comments come the day after President Biden gave his first joint address to Congress with a significantly reduced crowd, due to social distancing precautions implemented for the event.
A number of lawmakers have also said they would like to see the House begin to return to pre-pandemic protocol, with shorter vote series and the allowance for members who have been vaccinated to take off their masks.
While roughly 75 percent of members have been vaccinated, Pelosi said she cannot force the 25 percent who have not opted to get the vaccine to do so, citing privacy concerns.
“So here’s the thing: We cannot require someone to be vaccinated. That’s just not what we can do, it is a matter of privacy to know who is or who isn’t. I can’t go to the Capitol physician and say, ‘Give me the names of people who aren’t vaccinated so I can go encourage them to,’ or make it known to others to encourage them to be vaccinated,” she told reporters.
“So we can’t do that. But you would hope that science would guide them to protect themselves, their family members and be good colleagues in the workplace to get vaccinated. And the sooner that happens, the better for everything.”
Pelosi added that the scaled-down numbers for the joint address came at the recommendation of the Capitol physician, who encouraged precautions to be put in place despite the majority of members having received the vaccine.
“By and large, that security issue was always there when the president of the United States is present, but in terms of COVID, COVID had us in a room where normally 1,600 people would be gathered for the address by the president of the United States — 1,600 people to I think it was 204 people, because the Capitol physician insisted that that social distancing and mask-wearing were necessary so that we are not contributing to the spread of COVID,” she said, “especially with the president of the United States there but also in terms of the Congress of the United States.”