Should Rep. Elise Stefanik do more to encourage people in her district to be vaccinated against COVID-19?
Since the novel coronavirus pandemic forced the closure of the Canadian/U.S. border to all nonessential traffic, New York authorities have been working to see restrictions loosened.
U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-Schuylerville, has repeatedly urged Canadian and U.S. officials to reopen the border. Last month, she recommended that the Biden administration should act unilaterally. And she recently sent a letter to each Canadian provincial and territorial premier seeking help in getting traffic flowing between the two countries again.
We have supported efforts to lift at least some of these measures. The economy of Northern New York depends significantly on cross-border interaction. In addition, many people have been prevented from visiting family members or traveling to residences they own on the other side.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he wouldn’t consider easing restrictions until at least 75% of his country’s citizens receive at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccination. As of Friday, 68.49% of all Canadians have been given at least one shot, according to COVID-19 Tracker Canada.
So while Canadian public health authorities are making progress, they still have some work to accomplish before their border will reopen. Persuading those who remain hesitant about getting the vaccine has become difficult.
Trudeau is obviously worried about the well-being of his nation’s residents who will encounter Americans once the border reopens. Having enough of them vaccinated will make it safer for U.S. citizens to cross over.
Getting more Americans vaccinated could alleviate some of Trudeau’s concerns. And if Stefanik understands the importance of reopening the border and wants to move this goal forward, here’s how she could help.
Stefanik spends an inordinate amount of her time highlighting partisan issues. Her social media accounts and frequent appearances on conservative news outlets sometimes focus on topics of limited relevance to those of us living within her district.
Stefanik needs to know when to put her culture warrior antics aside and act in the best interests of her constituents. She can do this by spending time here encouraging residents to get vaccinated.
In Jefferson County, 50.9% of the population has received at least one dose of the vaccine, according to state data. This figure is 59.7% in Clinton County, 60.6% in Essex County, 49.3% in Franklin County, 71.7% in Hamilton County, 46.6% in Herkimer County, 42% in Lewis County, 51.7% in Oneida County, 52% in Oswego County, 51.6% in St. Lawrence County and 65.4% in Warren County.
Vaccination rates are all over the place in Northern New York. It’s uncertain why local residents have held out.
But nationally, resistance to the vaccine comes largely from Republicans. A Washington Post/ABC News poll conducted in late June found that only 45% of people who identify as Republicans have gotten at least one shot. Of those polled, 47% of Republicans said they are unlikely to be vaccinated and 38% of them said they will definitely not receive any doses.
This is incredibly disturbing, and Stefanik should make an effort to address this. She needs to mount a campaign here to confront whatever hesitancy exists and urge residents to do the right thing by being vaccinated. As the new chairwoman of the House Republican Conference, she’s in a unique position to use her influence and make a real difference in a district with a clear majority of GOP voters.
Increasing these numbers would go a long way toward persuading the Canadians that we’re serious about improving conditions for safer travel. This could help get the border reopened sooner, reviving our economic and social ties.