RICHMOND, Virginia – The Senate General Laws and Technology Committee killed two of Senator Amanda Chase’s (R-Chesterfield) bills seeking to outlaw discrimination against those who refuse to wear masks or get COVID-19 vaccines.
“While we have many opinions about whether to wear masks or not, it should be an individual right. It should be an individual choice. I remember a period of time whenever that was not necessarily an option, and it impeded people who had disabilities from actually getting healthcare services because they could not wear a mask, not being able to go to the grocery store, shop. We cannot deny people a basic human right of being provided healthcare and basic human services,” Chase told the committee on Wednesday afternoon, arguing for her bill SB 582.
Senator Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria) asked, “If I’m a parent and I want my child to be maximumly healthy, my immunocompromised child, and I don’t want them to come into contact with COVID if they can avoid it, and there’s a group of other parents and we have a school that is maybe a charter school even, and we want our children to wear masks to be healthy because they’re immunocompromised, this would allow another child who’s possibly a carrier for COVID or COVID-positive to possibly come in and sneeze on them without a mask?”
Chase said, “Senator Ebbin, what I would say to you is that you as a parent have the right to send your child to school with a mask on. And many people believe 100 percent that the mask will work and they are taking whatever precautions they deem appropriate for [their] child, but other parents are not allowed to make those decisions for other students in the classroom. What I would tell you is that most parents are not going to send their kids to school with COVID, and the private school has the right and the ability to turn that kid away from the school until they have fully recovered.”
Her bills had several public speakers in support who testified of health and emotional problems caused by masks.
“I’d like to say that N-95s are the only mask that is proven to occlude the virus. Short of the N-95, it’s like putting on a chain-link fence to keep mosquitoes out of your yard. So I strongly agree with this bill, I have no problem if people want to wear masks. I don’t feel that they’re effective and I don’t feel which should be coerced into putting on masks unnecessarily. Only N-95, which is quite inhibitory, is effective,” registered nurse Jo Billings said.
Two people in opposition to the bill discussed personal experiences with asthma, including Nayeli Carrillol, whose daughter has asthma.
“Wearing a mask is kind of a little bit difficult but I believe it is helping her be more healthy,” she said. “I’m afraid that if this bill passes, instead of helping her, it’s going to take her more to the hospital.”
SB 582 was killed with most committee Republicans voting for the bill, but no Republicans offered any comments of support. Chase also presented SB 548, which bans discrimination against people based on COVID-19 vaccination status.
“I do believe that we need to respect the individual rights of individuals to make those decisions for themselves once again. Vaccine passports discriminate against people who make a conscientious decision, not to be disrespectful to their neighbors, but have a conscientious objection for their family and their situation,” Chase said.
Senator Siobhan Dunnavant (R-Henrico) is an OB-GYN. She did not vote for or against SB 582 but spoke in favor of SB 548.
“Another angle of this is, you cannot have somebody have to report medical information or the lack of that information without infringing privacy rights. And having a threshold where you have to show verification of vaccination or explain to a restaurant owner why you have a medical exemption is above and beyond any expectation of HIPAA or privacy. There’s an opportunity for us to inspire people to get the vaccination and accept that there’s a patient’s bill of rights and that they have the power to make their own decision. But we shouldn’t be using this as a litmus test to get into stores,” Dunnavant said.
After the committee voted against SB 548 along party lines, Ebbin said, “I think there is something about societal good and private property rights to protect the workers. But I understand this is a complex issue and I don’t think this bill will solve the problem while still protecting.”
Chase still has several COVID-19 related bills waiting to be heard in committee, including SB 73 which protects healthcare providers who prescribe hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin for COVID-19; SB 189 which bans employers from requiring employees to get a COVID-19 vaccine; SB 458 which bans schools, higher education institutions, localities, and employers from requiring face coverings due to COVID-19; and SB 601 which bans state agencies from requiring anyone to get a COVID-19 vaccine and bans discrimination based on COVID-19 vaccination.
The bills are likely doomed in the Democrat-controlled Senate committees.
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