Alabama military base orders troops to show vaccination proof amid increased COVID-19 cases

Alabama military base orders troops to show vaccination proof amid increased COVID-19 cases
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Troops at an Alabama military base have been ordered to show proof that they've been vaccinated to be able to go without face masks on the premises.

The base in Fort Rucker, Ala., the headquarters for the Army’s aviation program, announced on Tuesday that it would be implementing the new rule in an effort to combat a rising number of COVID-19 cases in the state.  

State Health Officer Scott Harris told The Associated Press in an interview that he was concerned about the rising number of COVID-19 cases and said that the delta variant was playing “a large role.”

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“And it’s definitely because people are unvaccinated. It’s not the vaccinated people that are getting infected for the most part, and if they do for the most part they aren’t the ones getting sick in the hospital,” Harris told the AP.

According to the state’s coronavirus data, Alabama has seen over 556,000 cases of COVID-19 and over 11,400 deaths as of Wednesday evening, since the start of the pandemic. 

Data from Johns Hopkins University notes that the percentage of those who are fully vaccinated in the state is 33.6 percent, making it among the states with the lowest percentage of fully vaccinated people in the U.S. 

Johns Hopkins data shows that Mississippi has the same percentage as Alabama of people who are fully vaccinated. Wyoming, Arkansas and Louisiana track similarly low percentages of people who are fully vaccinated, at around 35 percent. 

On July 7, Alabama had 1,613 cases compared to 532 cases the week before. On July 12, the state had 610 cases, according to Johns Hopkins data.

Because the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has authorized the COVID-19 vaccines for emergency use and they have not been fully approved, the military cannot legally mandate that all service members get the vaccine. President BidenJoe BidenRealClearPolitics reporter says Freedom Caucus shows how much GOP changed under Trump Iowa governor suggests immigrants partially to blame for rising COVID-19 cases Biden officials pledge to confront cybersecurity challenges head-on MORE could grant an exception to this rule, however.

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In an interview with Greta Van Susteren on Sunday, former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said the president should require all military members to get the vaccine. 

“I frankly think the president ought to issue an order requiring everybody in the military to get a COVID-19 shot, period. That's an issue involving our national security,” Panetta, who served in the Obama administration, said. “The last damn thing you need is to have those in the military that are our warriors unable to respond to a mission because they've gotten COVID-19. There's no excuse for that.”

More than half of all service members have been at least partially vaccinated as of late June, but thousands of military members have still not gotten the vaccine.