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Alabama's Republican Gov. Kay Ivey drew fire on Friday after saying it was "time to start blaming the unvaccinated folks” for a spike in her state's COVID-19 cases, with critics charging she has failed to show leadership in tackling the pandemic.
Asked Thursday what it would take to lift Alabama's low vaccination rate, Ivey snapped to a reporter: "I don't know, you tell me!"
“Folks are supposed to have common sense," Ivey continued. "But it’s time to start blaming the unvaccinated folks, not the regular folks. It’s the unvaccinated folks that are letting us down."
Her remarks come as the U.S. vaccination effort is flagging and cases are surging because of the more contagious delta variant.
Alabama has reported more than 11,000 new COVID-19 infections over the last 14 days, according to the Alabama Department of Public Health. The state reported a positivity rate of 11.7% at the end of last week, up from 7.6% the week before.
When asked if it was part of her responsibility to get the situation under control, Ivey said, “I’ve done all I know how to do. I can encourage you to do something, but I can’t make you take care of yourself.”
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, when asked about Ivey's remarks on Friday, emphasized the importance of informing people about the risks of not getting vaccinated against COVID-19.
"I don’t think our role is to place blame, but what we can do is provide accurate information to people who are not yet vaccinated about the risk they are incurring not only among themselves, but also the people around them," she said.
As clips of Ivey's remarks went viral on Twitter, critics pounced. They noted Ivey lifted her state's mask mandate a month before the CDC recommended doing so and signed a measure into law barring private businesses from requiring proof of vaccination.
"With Covid cases rising, Alabama has the nation’s worst vaccination rate. Yet Gov. Kay Ivey says she’s done enough," author Keith Boykin posted on Twitter. "She's a liar."
Ivey, who was fully vaccinated in December, is among a handful of Republican officials who have recently become more forceful in urging their constituents to get vaccinated.
GOP leaders have come under pressure to address misinformation about the virus and the vaccine as COVID cases spike across the country, driven by the more contagious delta variant.
House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, R.-La., encouraged Americans to get vaccinated during a press conference Tuesday after receiving his first dose over the weekend.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey says unvaccinated to blame as COVID cases climb