Vaccines should always be voluntary and never be forced. But COVID-19 came in like a wrecking ball last year, and perhaps its most significant contribution to the world has been an overwhelming growth in government overreach.
From the abuse of emergency orders to the senseless “mask mandates,” some government officials have leapt at the chance to dangle the carrot of “normalcy” in the faces of their citizens in order to take away more of their freedoms. Unfortunately, many have taken the bait. And now, we find ourselves at a crossroads.
The latest promise to return to normal comes in the form of “vaccine passports.” This ridiculous concept would serve as “proof” that a person has been vaccinated so he or she can have access to all the freedoms they should already be able to enjoy as an American citizen. As you would expect, Big Tech is first in line to team up with the government on such an initiative. And New York has already implemented the “Excelsior Pass” so that its citizens can “be a part of [the state’s] safe reopening.” (Given Governor Cuomo’s handling of the pandemic, what could go wrong?)
But nothing about this is normal.
It’s not normal for companies to collect the private health data of individuals. And it’s certainly not normal to force American citizens to submit to certain medical procedures as the price of doing business.
Thankfully, some of our lawmakers here in Arizona have not fallen asleep on this issue. Earlier this month, Congressman Andy Biggs introduced his No Vaccines Passports Act. This piece of legislation would prevent federal agencies from issuing any standardized documentation that could be used to certify a U.S. citizen’s COVID-19 status to a third party, such as a restaurant or an airline.
And just a few days ago, Arizona became the sixth state to ban COVID-19 passports when Governor Ducey signed Executive Order 2021-09. This prevents state agencies, counties, cities, and towns from issuing measures that require an individual to provide documentation of their COVID-19 vaccination status in to order to enter a business, building, or area to receive a government service, permit, or license. It also prevents businesses that contract with the state to provide services to the public from requiring documentation.
That’s why lawmakers should consider additional action on this issue. One option being considered is HB2190. This bill, sponsored by Rep. Bret Roberts (R-LD11) and Sen. Kelly Townsend (R-LD16), would prohibit a company that conducts business in Arizona from refusing to provide everyday services, transportation, or admission because a person does not divulge whether they have received a particular vaccine. It would also prohibit a state, county, or local government entity from offering anyone a special privilege or incentive to receive a vaccine.
Currently, HB2190 is awaiting action in the senate, and negotiations are underway on potential amendments to the bill. Regardless of what those amendments are, Arizona lawmakers need to work toward stopping vaccine passports. They are a serious threat to our civil liberties. And while we all want to return to normal, we must remember that “normal” shouldn’t come with a price tag.
An effort by the Arizona Legislature to craft permanent legislation to prevent a person from being denied access to businesses, government facilities, and even their child’s school unless they showed proof of being vaccination for COVID-19 was pushed aside Monday when Gov. Doug Ducey issued an executive order about the issue.
Under Executive Order 21-09, most private businesses in Arizona will be free to refuse service to “a customer” who does not provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination. Only companies which receive state funding to provide services to the public are banned from inquiring about someone’s status, although Ducey’s order does not protect those citizens who cannot receive a vaccine for a medical reason
“While we strongly recommend all Arizonans get the COVID-19 vaccine, it’s not mandated in our state — and it never will be,” Ducey said in announcing his latest COVID related executive order. “Vaccination is up to each individual, not the government.”
Daycares, schools, colleges, and universities would still be able to ask about a student’s vaccination record as already allowed by law, but parents could not be asked about their own vaccination status if the educational program receives any state funding.
In addition, hospitals and other healthcare facilities can inquire about the vaccination status of patients, prospective patients, vendors, visitors, and staff, even if the organization receives state funds.
There was initially some confusion Monday morning about what EO 2021-09 encompassed, as Ducey’s official Twitter account read “I’ve issued an Executive Order banning ‘vaccine passports’ and preventing state and local governments from requiring Arizonans to provide their #COVID19 vaccination status to receive service or enter an area.”
Many took the first sentence to mean businesses could not impose a vaccine requirement on customers. However, that misinterpretation was quickly corrected by the rest of the governor’s comments.
Ducey noted in the executive order that no person should be compelled to disclose their private health information -including their vaccination record- to a government entity as a condition of receiving services, obtaining a license or permit, or entrance to a public facility unless state law already requires proof of vaccination.
He added that federal and state laws allow individuals to refuse to be vaccinated, and that “it is not and will not be mandated in the State of Arizona.”
EO 2021-09 also prohibits any other state subdivision -including cities towns, counties, and state agencies- from adopting a policy or ordinance that contradicts the governor’s order. This ensures cities, towns, and counties cannot demand proof of vaccinations for people to use public parks and other public recreational and entertainment amenities.
Rep. Bret Roberts (R-LD11) first introduced legislation to ban such “vaccine passports” in Arizona. His effort was taken up by Sen. Kelly Townsend on March 28 in the form of HB2190, which would have protected Arizonans from having to divulge their vaccination record to shop, dine, or do most everyday activities.
HB2190 hit a snag in early April over concerns that it did not allow healthcare providers nor business owners to inquire about vaccination status of their employees. Negotiations have been underway all month on possible amendments to Townsend’s bill.
For his part, Roberts announced his support for EO 2021-09, noting Ducey’s “reasons for doing so are sound.” But he went on to note that many of those sounds reasons “also apply to the private sector.”
“No one should be required to give up their medical history to participate in commerce,” Roberts tweeted Monday morning. “When all businesses require it the individuals choice is lost. Allowing private business to do this amounts to segregation.”
Roberts also expressed concern that executive orders are intended to be temporary. After the governor’s announcement, Rep. Leo Biasiucci (R-LD4) said SB2190 should be voted on in the coming days as it “solves the issue with businesses requiring vaccine mandates.”
Also on Monday, Ducey rescinded a section of his EO 2020-51 which had directed K-12 schools to require masks.
“We will continue to work with public health professionals and Arizona’s schools as more students return to the classroom and our state moves forward,” the governor said.
As a bill to prohibit vaccine passports appears to have stalled in the Arizona Legislature, Congressman Biggs this week introduced his No Vaccine Passports Act to prevent federal agencies from issuing any standardized documentation that could be used to certify a U.S. citizen’s COVID-19 status to a third party, such as a restaurant or an airline.
Biggs’ bill follows a report that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is encouraging vaccine providers to push people to share their personal health and vaccination data through their smartphones. Healthcare professionals and civil rights activists are now that surveillance system could be used to create a vaccine passport.
“I am profoundly disturbed that the Biden Administration would even consider imposing vaccine passports on the American people. My private healthcare decisions—and yours—are nobody else’s business,” said Biggs. “Vaccine passports will not help our nation recover from COVID-19; instead, they will simply impose more Big Brother surveillance on our society.
Biggs applauded Florida Governor Ron DeSantis “for being an early leader against vaccine passports at the state level. My No Vaccine Passports Act builds on his efforts and will further protect Americans’ privacy rights and fundamental freedoms.”
On Monday, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order prohibiting vaccine passports. Abbott said a system to track those who have been inoculated against COVID-19 infringes on citizens’ rights.
This is the correct direction to go. Medical records should always remain confidential. No one should ever have to show papers for private medical decisions made between you and your doctor. #VaccinePassport#covidhttps://t.co/qpIAvvpGav
Arizona State Rep. Bret Roberts has proposed the state-level bill to prohibit vaccine passports. The bill has stalled due to the efforts of at least one lawmaker who believes private businesses should be allowed to require them.
PHOENIX — Arizona businesses can breathe a sigh of relief now that Governor Doug Ducey has signed legislation providing COVID liability protections to Arizona businesses and healthcare workers. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Vince Leach, “establishes a presumption that a person or provider acted in good faith if they adopted and implemented reasonable policies related to the public health pandemic.”
Leach says the bill was needed to protect businesses and healthcare providers from “frivolous lawsuits.”
Leach said that people are the frontlines of the pandemic “will be targets of meritless lawsuits,” without protection.
“With this bill coming along this summer,” said Leach, “the plaintiff will have the burden to prove by clear and convincing evidence that a person or provider failed to act, or acted with willful misconduct and a gross negligence in order to win a civil lawsuit.”
Leach says the bill provides “common sense protections for the frontline workers in healthcare, schools, and businesses, who have been invaluable during the pandemic response in Arizona.”
Nationwide, according to Leach, more than 2000 coronavirus related cases of them brought forward despite businesses following approved guidelines.
The legislation applies during the current public health pandemic and protects health care institutions and other service providers for any act or omission that is alleged to have occurred during a person’s screening, assessment or treatment that is related to the health emergency. Providers include educational institutions, school districts or charter schools, property owners, lessees and lessors, nonprofit organizations, religious institutions, the State and local governments, health care providers and institutions, and nursing and residential care facilities.
The legislation also provides a presumption for health professionals or health care institutions that they have acted in good faith if they relied on and reasonably attempted to comply with applicable published guidance, while also ensuring that such a presumption can be overcome if there is evidence of gross negligence or willful misconduct.
“Small businesses need certainty under the law that if they act in good faith, they’ll be protected from frivolous lawsuits,” said Leach. “I’m grateful to the organizations and fellow legislators who supported Senate Bill 1377, and to Governor Ducey for signing this important legislation.”
Public Health Pandemic Civil Liability
1. Precludes from liability for damages, during a public health pandemic state of emergency declared by the Governor, a person or provider who acts in good faith to protect a customer, student, tenant, volunteer, patient, guest or neighbor, or the public (litigant), from injury from the public health pandemic for injury, death or loss to person or property that is based on a claim that the person or provider failed to protect the litigant from the effects of the public health pandemic, unless it is proven by clear and convincing evidence that the person or provider failed to act or acted and the failure to act or action was due to that person’s or provider’s willful misconduct or gross negligence.
2. Establishes a presumption that a person or provider acted in good faith if the person or provider adopted and implemented reasonable policies related to the public health pandemic.
3. Applies the standard for liability to all claims that are filed before or after the general effective date for an act or omission by a person or provider that occurred after March 11, 2020, and that relates to a public health pandemic that is the subject of the state of emergency declared by the Governor.
4. Exempts claims for workers compensation from the outlined liability standard.
5. Defines provider as:
a) a person who furnishes consumer or business goods or services or entertainment;
b) an educational institution or district;
c) a school district or charter school;
d) a property owner, property manager or property lessor or lessee;
e) a nonprofit organization;
f) a religious institution;
g) the state or a state agency or instrumentality;
h) a local government or political subdivision, including a department, agency or commission of a local government or political subdivision;
i) a service provider;
j) a health professional; or
k) a health care institution.
Health Professionals and Health Care Institutions
6. Precludes from liability for damages, during a public health pandemic state of emergency declared by the Governor, a health professional (professional) or health care institution (institution) that acts in good faith in any civil action for an injury or death that is alleged to be the professional’s or institution’s action or omission while providing health care services in support of the state’s response to the state of emergency, unless it is proven by clear and convincing evidence that the professional or institution failed to act or acted and the failure to act or action was due to that professional’s or institution’s willful misconduct or gross negligence.
7. Applies the outlined limited liability to any action or omission that occurs:
a) during a person’s screening, assessment, diagnosis or treatment and that is related to the public health pandemic that is the subject of the state of emergency; or
b) in the course of providing a person with health care services and that is unrelated to the public health pandemic that is the subject of the state of emergency if the professional’s or institution’s action or omission was in good faith support of the state’s response to the state of emergency, including:
i. delaying or canceling a procedure that the professional determined in good faith was a nonurgent or elective dental, medical or surgical procedure;
ii. providing nursing care or procedures;
iii. altering a person’s diagnosis or treatment in response to an order, directive or guideline that is issued by the federal government, the state or a local government; or
iv. an act or omission undertaken by a professional or institution because of a lack of staffing, facilities, equipment, supplies or other resources that are attributable to the state of emergency and that render the professional or institution unable to provide the level or manner of care to a person that otherwise would have been required in the absence of the state of emergency.
8. Establishes a presumption that a professional or institution acted in good faith if the professional or institution relied on and reasonably attempted to comply with applicable published guidance relating to the public health pandemic that was issued by a federal or state agency.
9. Allows a party to introduce any other evidence that proves the professional or institution acted in good faith.
10. Applies the standard for liability to all claims that are filed before or after the general effective date for an act or omission by a person or provider that occurred after March 11, 2020, and that relates to a public health pandemic that is the subject of the state of emergency declared by the Governor.
11. Exempts claims for workers compensation from the outlined liability standard.
12. Specifies, for claims against a nursing care institution or residential care institution, where the care in question did not directly relate to the public health pandemic, the nursing care institution or residential care institution has the burden to prove the act or omission was the direct result of having to provide care to patients needing treatment for the pandemic or due to limitations caused by the pandemic.
On Friday, Governor Doug Ducey engaged in a Twitter exchange with Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego for what he says are policies that “make zero sense.”
The governor sent a letter to Gallego and reminded the public that all State Parks will be open with free admission this weekend.
In his letter, the governor asserted that “Arizona’s parks are open. All parks. Everywhere. Rural and urban. From Phoenix to Tucson to Flagstaff. All towns and municipalities. Enjoy and GOD BLESS! #HappyEaster 3/3”
Phoenix City Councilman Sal DiCiccio thanked the governor for his letter:
Phoenix had set temporary restrictions in its parks, including closing parking lots and prohibiting grilling. The mayor made note that the decision was unanimous, however, DiCiccio’s Chief of Staff Sam Stone offered another view of the decision:
9-0 because Arizona’s Panic Pusher in Chief tied any reopening of Parks amenities and sports fields to also closing them on Easter
Laughable watching Gallego try to evade blame for something she was proudly taking credit for a few days ago https://t.co/HBgiLsNQG7