COVID vaccine exemption passes West Virginia House

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A invoice to restrict West Virginia employers of their capability to require staff to be vaccinated in opposition to the coronavirus handed the Home of Delegates on Friday.

The proposal, which might permit sure medical and non secular exemptions to firm COVID-19 vaccine mandates, handed the Republican-led chamber 68-30 with two delegates absent. It stays pending within the Senate.

The invoice covers companies and state authorities businesses. Employers could be barred from penalizing or discriminating in opposition to present or potential workers for pursuing the exemptions.

Gov. Jim Justice added the invoice to the Legislature’s particular session this week.

Justice, a Republican, lifted an earlier indoor masks mandate in June. Whereas he has been adamant that residents get their COVID-19 photographs in a state whose inhabitants has the bottom vaccination fee within the nation, he opposes any new masks or vaccine mandates.

Talking concerning the invoice at a daily information convention on the pandemic Friday, Justice stated, “I don’t consider that actually and really we must always simply throw our freedoms and our rights in a trash can.”

Dozen of companies, together with hospitals, banks and the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce, have instructed lawmakers they’re strongly against the invoice.

The West Virginia College Well being System, the state’s largest non-public employer, is requiring its greater than 20,000 workers to be absolutely vaccinated in opposition to the coronavirus by Oct. 31. And a Nov. 6 deadline looms for practically 8,000 workers of Charleston Space Medical Heart to offer COVID-19 vaccine documentation.

Underneath the invoice, a health care provider or nurse can present signed documentation that the worker has a bodily situation stopping them from safely receiving the COVID-19 vaccine, or the employee has recovered from COVID-19 and might present they’ve antibodies for the virus. The employee can also current to their employer a notarized certification for a non secular exemption.

“I’m right here as a result of I consider in private selection and private freedom,” stated Raleigh County Republican Brandon Steele, chairman of the Home authorities group committee.

Holding his COVID-19 vaccine card, Steele stated, “it’s about being free to work your job, to boost your loved ones, and never be topic to any individual strolling as much as you and saying, ‘the place’s your papers?’ That’s not the America I need to reside in. The America I need to reside in, I might drop this card proper within the trash.

“And if my employer needs to require one thing, nice. You may nonetheless require it. However you’re going to acknowledge these exemptions. They’re respectable they usually exist.”

Kanawha County Democrat Doug Skaff, who owns a number of companies, stated the invoice tells employers methods to do their jobs.

“We need to make this a business-friendly state,” Skaff stated. “Get authorities out of the best way and allow us to run our enterprise. This invoice does the other.”

Many other states are considering anti-mandate payments. GOP Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Monday issued an government order to ban any entity, together with non-public enterprise, from implementing a COVID-19 vaccine mandate on staff.

Greater than 4,100 individuals have died from the virus in West Virginia because the begin of the pandemic. In response to the Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention, West Virginia, Idaho and Wyoming have the bottom share of residents who usually are not absolutely vaccinated.

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