Here is what the mayors had to say:
We want to help
The Covid-19 vaccine distribution strategy hashed out under the Trump administration over the past several months put the impetus on states to divvy up and allocate doses to be administered on the ground level.
That’s perfectly logical, particularly for more rural areas that don’t have a considerable infrastructure in place for this type of mass vaccination campaign, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said. But for a city like his with a population larger than some states, Turner suggested cutting out state-level intermediaries in favor of delivering vaccines directly to local governments.
“We have the infrastructure in place to make sure these vaccines are given in an equitable way,” Turner said. “There is no reason to insert that added layer.”
Turner is among the Democratic mayors who have clashed with GOP governors and state legislatures over mask mandates, shutdown orders and other pandemic policies. In some cases they’ve even moved to limit the ability of local governments to set Covid-19 rules within their jurisdictions.
Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt, a Republican, said that while his city has a mask mandate, it is impacted by visits to the metro area by outside visitors coming from localities where similar regulations are not in place.
An end to the mask wars
The ideological battle about requiring people to wear facial coverings in public spaces is one part of the pandemic response that has frustrated public health experts and many mayors, who believe it is a low-cost way to reduce viral spread and strain on the medical system.
“Obviously in my perfect world, everybody would be wearing a mask to begin with,” Phoenix’s Democratic Mayor Kate Gallego said. “I’m hoping it will become less political with the change in the administration” to President Joe Biden.
She also said she’s hopeful her city can have a more direct role in helping people access vaccinations.
But everyone’s on the same team
Holt and others said that despite ideological differences at times, everyone wants to get the vaccines to people quickly and safely in order to bring the pandemic to a close.
“The enemy is not the state government. It should not be the federal government. It is the virus and it requires all of us to be working seamlessly in order to defeat this virus,” Turner, the Houston mayor, said.
Gallego said that she’s been able to work with people who span the ideological spectrum from fervent supporters of former President Donald Trump to Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.
“Most things we do are close to unanimous or unanimous,” she said.
Vaccine stocks are a growing concern
With the supply of vaccines in some areas starting to run out just as officials look to expand the range of people eligible to receive the shots, mayors said additional clarity about the path forward is one of their top concerns.
“We need to get more first doses on a consistent basis,” Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said. “The vaccine is the most important tool that we have.”
Turner said the supply problems is one reason that cities should be more directly involved in the distribution process.
“Quite frankly we need to know with greater certainty when we’re going to get the vaccine how much we’re going to get so we can plan accordingly,” he said.
It’s time to turn the page
The mayors remarked that Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris’ inauguration marked an opportunity to address some of these problems and move their cities and the country forward.
“I’m excited about having a partner in the White House who knows the importance of cities,” said Lightfoot, whose city was a regular punching bag of Trump’s.
Holt, a Republican, said that Biden’s inauguration ceremony was a necessary step to repair the damage left by the deadly Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.
“It was a healing day for the United States yesterday and it was really invigorating for me,” Holt said, adding that it was “the kind of display of normalcy and decency that this country needs.”
The Oklahoma City mayor also labeled the insurrection as domestic terrorism and compared it to the infamous 1995 bombing of a federal building in his city.