A growing number of Americans think the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic is behind us. Yet in the District of Columbia, local officials are still clinging to government mandates that disproportionately harm low-income minority students.
The Daily Signal’s Doug Blair pressed Mayor Muriel Bowser on the issue at an Aug. 15 press conference, asking the mayor why the District of Columbia planned to bar unvaccinated students, many of whom are black, from attending school in person.
Bowser refused to provide a straight answer to the question, but that didn’t deter Blair. His persistence paid off, especially for the estimated 47% of the black children in the city ages 12-15 who haven’t completed their primary vaccination series necessary to go back to school in person. An estimated 42% of black teens aged 16-17 who are unvaccinated.
Just days before the start of school, the city abruptly announced Aug. 26 that it was delaying the vaccination requirement until Jan. 3, 2023. While that’s still problematic, it was a welcome reprieve for those students whose education has already suffered because of COVID-19 lockdowns. In addition to prohibiting unvaccinated students from attending school in person, the city was also refusing to offer a remote learning option.
The city’s announcement came after several Daily Signal reports and widespread social media attention, starting with Blair’s questioning of Bowser and follow-up stories.
Radio host Larry O’Connor of WMAL credited Blair’s reporting at The Daily Signal and The Heritage Foundation for influencing the city’s reversal.
“Doug Blair, over at The Heritage Foundation, confronted Mayor Bowser about a week and a half ago at a press conference,” O’Connor told his listeners Aug. 29. “Well, we have a happy ending to this. Reporting over the weekend, the District, at the last minute, within 48 hours of the first day of school, they reversed their policy.
“We want to give kudos again to Doug Blair, who we have on this program. He’s a friend of the program. We have them on regularly from The Daily Signal and the infrastructure there at The Heritage Foundation. They pushed this issue in the district. This is directly because of the pressure put on them, because of this reporting and frankly, because this radio station amplified it quite a bit.”
A day before the city changed plans, Blair questioned Bowser on what unvaccinated students could expect when public school started on Aug. 29.
“They can go to school on Monday,” Bowser said. “But they need to get their vaccinations … and their families will be alerted as to the dates.”
Blair then asked whether unvaccinated children would have the option to learn virtually if they didn’t get vaccinated. Bowser replied, “We’re not offering remote learning for children, and families will need to comply with what is necessary to come to school.”
The Daily Signal’s article was shared widely on Twitter, including by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas.
Completely evil. https://t.co/gpjFYCIogn— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) August 25, 2022
In his Aug. 26 announcement, Deputy Mayor for Education Paul Kihn cited “the challenges of tracking enforcement for COVID-19 vaccinations.”
The city’s announcement came on the heels of D.C. Superior Court Judge Maurice A. Ross’ decision Aug. 25 that the city’s vaccination mandate for city employees was unlawful.
Earlier this year, The Heritage Foundation and other organizations sued the Biden administration over its unlawful COVID-19 vaccine mandate on private employers. The U.S. Supreme Court sided with Heritage in January, striking down Biden’s mandate.