Anthony S. Fauci, the White House’s chief coronavirus medical adviser, said there should be more coronavirus vaccine requirements at the local level, though he has continued to insist the federal government will not mandate them.

“I have been of this opinion, and I remain of that opinion, that I do believe at the local level, there should be more mandates. There really should be,” Fauci said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union,” when host Jake Tapper asked whether he thought it would be a good idea for businesses and schools to require coronavirus vaccinations.

“We’re talking about life-and-death situations,” Fauci added. “We’ve lost 600,000 Americans already, and we’re still losing more people. There have been 4 million deaths worldwide. This is serious business. So I am in favor of that.”

As he has in recent weeks, Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-disease expert, expressed concern about vaccine hesitancy, as the coronavirus’s more contagious delta variant becomes dominant in the United States. Fauci also alluded to recent polling that shows such vaccine hesitancy has been driven by Republicans, which he suggested Sunday was because of “ideological rigidity.”

“Why are we having red states and places in the South that are very highly ideological in one way not wanting to get vaccinations? Vaccinations have nothing to do with politics,” Fauci said. “It’s a public-health issue. It doesn’t matter who you are. The virus doesn’t know whether you’re a Democrat, a Republican or an independent. … And yet there is that divide of people wanting to get vaccinated and not wanting to get vaccinated, which is really unfortunate, because it’s losing lives.”

Fauci has in the past pointed to organizations and “local entities” that would probably require proof of vaccination, including cruise lines and universities.

“So, notwithstanding guidelines from the [Centers of Disease Control and Prevention], there is going to be a situation where there are going to be requirements,” he said in a conversation with The Washington Post in May. “It’s not going to be centrally mandated from the federal government, but almost certainly, individual organizations are going to want to require proof of vaccination before they allow people to come into their establishment without having to wear a mask.”

In recent weeks, some GOP governors have been imploring residents anew to get vaccinated, calling it “a race” against the fast-spreading delta variant. One of those governors, Arkansas’s Asa Hutchinson, said Sunday that he plans to travel to six cities in the state next week to promote the vaccines, because the uptake rate there remains lower than the national average.

GOP governors on July 4 called on unvaccinated residents in their states to get vaccinated against the coronavirus as the delta variant continued to spread. (JM Rieger/The Washington Post)

“There shouldn’t be a partisan divide, first of all,” Hutchinson said on ABC News’s “This Week” on Sunday. “In the Southern states and some rural states, you have that more conservative approach, skepticism about government. And we just have to answer it just like we have all through history, that you overcome skepticism and mistrust by truth. You overcome resistance and obstinance with saying it’s important for our community, and it’s important for the health of our state and nation.”

Still, scenes from the Conservative Political Action Conference in Dallas this weekend indicated that overcoming some Republicans’ refusal to get vaccinated may be a tall hurdle. At one CPAC panel Saturday, Alex Berenson, a former New York Times reporter who has been spreading anti-vaccination and other misinformation about covid on Twitter, falsely proclaimed masks “do nothing, nothing” to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

He also scoffed onstage at the government “hoping that they could sort of sucker 90 percent of the population into getting vaccinated.”

“And it isn’t happening, right?” Berenson asked the audience. Many in the crowd cheered in response.

Showed a clip of that exchange Sunday, Fauci said it was “horrifying.”

“I mean, they are cheering about someone saying that it’s a good thing for people not to try and save their lives,” he told Tapper. “I mean, if you just unpack that for a second, Jake, it’s almost frightening to say, ‘Hey, guess what, we don’t want you to do something to save your life.’ Yay! Everybody starts screaming and clapping. I just don’t get that.”

Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) also had strong words Sunday for his Republican colleagues who have been sowing fears about the coronavirus vaccines, including Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) comparing those going door to door to encourage people to get vaccinated to “medical brown shirts” from the Nazi era.

“It’s insanity. It’s absolute insanity,” Kinzinger said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “At no point was anybody saying they’re going to break down your door and jam a vaccine in your arm despite your protests.”

Kinzinger called on House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and every other leader in the GOP to “call out these garbage politicians” playing on vaccine fears “for their own selfish gain,” saying such rhetoric would end in Americans dying if it did not stop.

“This plane is going to crash into the ground,” he said. “Listen, if you are a Republican voter, do not listen to people like Marjorie Taylor Greene. The vaccine is safe. Covid is real. Get vaccinated.”

Tony Romm contributed to this report.

Read more: