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COVID-19 vaccine mandate: Tampa residents hold differing opinions on new mandate set in place

President Joe Biden announced a federal vaccine mandate on Thursday, impacting roughly 100 million Americans.

TAMPA, Fla. — Close to two-thirds of America's workforce is impacted by President Joe Biden's recently-announced COVID-19 vaccine mandate. 

Federal and contracted employees will be required to be vaccinated, and risk losing their jobs if compliance isn't met. For private businesses with more than 100 employees, vaccines or weekly COVID-19 testing will be required.

For some, this news means the possibility of normalcy. 

"At this point, I feel like we should do whatever it takes to get this thing over with, so we can go back to life as it used to be," Tampa resident Trey Phillips said.

Phillips has received his vaccine. He also shared he was one of the breakthrough COVID-19 cases, which he says was an experience he wouldn't wish on anyone. 

"Super tired, felt like we had an internal fever," Phillips recalled, describing his symptoms. "Temperatures were fine but felt super hot. Chills, nausea, for a good seven days, just hell."

Just as wearing a mask and having the option to get vaccinated was an adjustment to many, Phillips thinks the same will happen with mandates. But eventually, that too will become normalized

"Once you start doing it, it's not as bad, but starting off, it's going to be hard," he said. 

It's not something everyone sees eye to eye on. Sharon Cross said the decision should remain a personal choice. 

"Everyone is different," said Cross. "What's good for you might not be good for somebody else and vice versa. It's a personal choice and I think everyone should have that freedom."

For businesses with 100 or more people, those opposed to getting their vaccine have the option of getting weekly COVID-19 tests. Something Cross is concerned may not be the easiest alternative. 

"If they're going to provide the tests, yeah," she said. "I don't think it should come out of our pocket to do so."

It will take six to eight weeks for people to become fully immunized after a mandate goes into effect to see the impacts. Hospitals across the country and in Tampa Bay are still concerned over COVID-19 hospitalization numbers.

Cross said the solution for those concerned is keeping your distance. 

"I feel, if you're concerned or worried about that, you should stay away from places that are overpopulated," she said.

Dr. Michael Teng, a professor at USF's College of Internal Medicine, is disheartened a mandate is needed. 

"You'd think a coronavirus pandemic that's killing thousands of people a day would be another one of those times we could all come together, but it's really not been," Teng said. "And that's what's been surprising to me."

In the richest country in the world, with vaccinations and the data to back it readily available, Teng said it's difficult to understand why Americans have let the pandemic claim so many lives. 

"We have freedoms, but with freedoms come responsibilities," he said.

Vaccine mandates aren't unusual. They're required in grade schools and at most colleges. Dr. Teng said the COVID-19 vaccine should not be considered any different, as it's a crucial tool in stopping the spread of a deadly virus. 

Other useful tools in preventing the spread of COVID-19 include hand-washing, social distancing, wearing masks, and proper ventilation, according to Teng.