COVID Vaccine Exemption Passed by West Virginia House

CHARLESTON, West Virginia – A bill restricting West Virginia employers from requiring workers to vaccinate against the coronavirus was passed by the House of Delegates on Friday.

The proposal, which would allow certain medical and religious exceptions to the company’s COVID-19 vaccination requirements, passed through Chamber 68-30, led by Republicans, in the absence of two delegates. It remains pending in the Senate.

The bill applies to businesses and government agencies in the state. Employers will be prohibited from punishing or discriminating against current or future employees for using benefits.

Gov. Jim Justice added the bill to a special session of the Legislature this week.

Justice, a Republican, canceled a previous mandate to use home masks in June. While he was adamant about residents receiving COVID-19 vaccinations in the state with the lowest vaccination rate in the country, he opposes any new requirements for masks or vaccines.

Speaking about the bill at a regular press conference on Friday about the pandemic, Justice said, “I don’t believe we should really just throw our freedoms and our rights in the bin.”

Dozens of businesses, including hospitals, banks and the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce, have told lawmakers that they strongly oppose the bill.

The health system at West Virginia University, the state’s largest private employer, requires more than 20,000 of its employees to be fully vaccinated against coronavirus by October 31. The November 6 deadline is approaching for nearly 8,000 Charleston Medical Center employees to submit COVID-19 Vaccine Documentation.

Under the bill, a doctor or nurse can provide signed documentation that the employee’s physical condition does not allow him to safely receive the COVID-19 vaccine, or that the employee has recovered from COVID-19 and can show that he has antibodies to the virus. The employee can also show his employer a notarized certificate of exemption from religious beliefs.

“I’m here because I believe in personal choice and personal freedom,” said Raleigh County Republican Brandon Steele, chairman of the House government organizing committee.

Holding his COVID-19 vaccine card, Steele said, “It’s about being able to work at your job, raising a family and not being exposed to someone coming up to you and asking, ‘Where are your papers? “This is not the America I want to live in. The America I want to live in, I can throw this card right in the bin.

“And if my employer wants to demand something, good. You can still demand it. But you are going to acknowledge these exceptions. They are legal and exist. “

Kanawa County Democrat Doug Scaff, who owns several businesses, said the law tells employers how to do their jobs.

“We want to make this state a business-friendly state,” Skaff said. “Get the government out of the way and let us run our business. This bill does the opposite. “

Many other states are considering anti-mandate bills. GOP Gov. Greg Abbott on Monday issued an executive order prohibiting any entity, including private business, from applying the COVID-19 vaccine mandate to workers.

Since the start of the pandemic, more than 4,100 people have died from the virus in West Virginia. West Virginia, Idaho and Wyoming have the lowest percentage of residents without a full vaccination, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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