The overwhelming majority of people are done with COVID restrictions. Just look at the reaction when mask mandates were put to an end on airplanes last month. Cheering. Celebration. Throwing masks away. There’s nothing surprising about this—unless of course you’re a member of the liberal media.
With a desire to tackle COVID overreach head on, our own state lawmakers got to work last year. And through a series of Budget Reconciliation Bills, they took important steps to protect Arizonans from more COVID mandates.
But then in November, some of the protections were thrown out in court on procedural grounds. Thankfully, the Arizona legislature didn’t ignore the problem and got back to work this year. Now, they have passed several significant bills that are officially signed into law to protect against future COVID and government overreach…
A major U.S.-based airline is pushing for a long-lasting consequence for disruptive passengers—having their names added to the FAA’s “no-fly” list. But it is not only passengers who engage in violence or a threat of violence who could end up banned from flying.
On Feb. 3, CEO Edward Bastian of Delta Airlines wrote a letter to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland asking for support of a plan to ensure more passengers who engage in disorderly conduct on an airplane or even in an airport could be barred from traveling on any commercial air carrier in the future.
“At Delta, nothing is more important than ensuring a safe and secure travel experience for consumers as they reclaim the skies in the months ahead,” Bastian wrote, adding that any “disruption or act of violence on our planes and at our airports warrants full and public prosecution of the offenders, with zero tolerance for any behavior that interferes with flight safety.”
In January, federal prosecution was initiated against passengers in at least four acts of violence against various airline employees. There are also many instances in which a passenger acts in a disorderly manner without placing anyone, or an aircraft, in immediate danger, and is therefore not prosecuted.
Which is why Bastian is calling on all U.S. commercial air carriers to share their “unruly passenger” no-fly list so that individuals with a history of bad behavior against one airline can be prevented from doing the same on another carrier.
But it is not simply passengers who verbally or physically assault crew members or fellow passengers who are considered unruly, according to Bastian’s letter to Merrick.
Passengers who refuse to wear a mask on an aircraft, even when social distancing is occurring or when the passenger is trying to eat, can be deemed by a flight crew member of acting in a disorderly manner. In fact, Bastion’s letter notes nearly 1,900 passengers have been added to Delta’s internal no-fly list for refusing to comply with mask mandates.
The company has also submitted more than 900 of those names to the Transportation Security Administration to pursue civil penalties, Bastian wrote. Such penalties can include thousands of dollars per violation, even if there is no criminal prosecution.
Delta is one of 10 members of Airlines for America (A4A), formerly the Air Association of America, which represents the interests of several of the country’s leading airlines. The other A4A members are Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, jetBlue, Southwest, and United, as well as commercial cargo carriers Atlas Air Worldwide, FedEx Express, and UPS.
The House Government and Elections Committee passed two bills prohibiting government entities from requiring masks or COVID-19 vaccines. The first bill, HB2498, prohibits governments from mandating COVID-19 vaccinations for any Arizonan; The second bill, HB2453, would eliminate all governmental authority to require masks or face coverings on their premises, with an exception carved out for areas with workplace safety and infection control measures unrelated to COVID-19. For both bills, “government entities” are defined as those who receive and use tax revenues.
Both bills were introduced by Queen Creek Republicans: State Representatives Jake Hoffman and Neal Carter, respectively. HB2498 passed 7-5 along party lines, with State Representative Alma Hernandez (D-Tucson) abstaining her vote. HB2453 passed more narrowly, 7-6 along party lines.
State Representative Sarah Liguori (D-Phoenix) argued during Wednesday’s committee that the vaccine prevents individuals from spreading COVID-19; Hoffman, the vice chairman, rebutted that simply wasn’t the case. Liguori argued, based on a definition from ushistory.org, that governments provide everyday behavior parameters, well-being, and happiness for citizens. Hoffman responded that the definition wasn’t at all aligned with the U.S. Constitution.
“I honestly don’t give a rat’s ass what ushistory.org says,” said Hoffman. “We exist to protect the rights of our citizens. One of their own rights is to choose their own bodily decisions. It’s their right to choose whether or not a vaccine is injected into them.”
A male legislator chimed in to say Hoffman’s argument aligned with pro-abortion arguments; Hoffman rebutted that wasn’t true because a baby’s life was at stake.
Minority Leader Reginald Bolding (D-Laveen) insisted that the fact that vaccines don’t prevent individuals from catching or spreading COVID-19 was “unfounded.” He then characterized the bill as an overreach preventing individuals from obtaining the protections of a vaccine, though he didn’t clarify how this bill had any bearing on individuals choosing to get vaccinated voluntarily.
“If we have the ability to have a vaccine that would prevent individuals from becoming severely ill or losing their life, we should not be standing in the way of that. I believe this bill is an additional overreach,” said Bolding.
Hoffman reiterated that the American system of government doesn’t have a right to force its citizens to take a vaccine they don’t want to have.
“Our overture to the world on what sets this people apart from everywhere else: ‘We hold these truths to be self evident: that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights. That among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,” said Hoffman. “The choice of the governed. It is not in the American system that a government can tell them what to do, can force them to take a vaccine.”
As AZ Free News reported, Carter asserted that his bill, HB2453, would curb further exacerbations of the current hiring and employee shortages in addition to respecting the right of individuals to make their own health decisions.
During the committee meeting, Bolding called the bill “misplaced policy” by not allowing local governments to protect their citizens by requiring masks. State Representative John Fillmore (R-Apache Junction) responded that he feels bad that any individual would die from an infectious disease, but it saddened him greatly too that a whole society allowed the government to assume complete control over their lives.
“I was appalled that the churches did not rise in opposition when [the government] said that people could not go and pray to the gods of their choice and live out their lives, like they did during the Revolutionary War which sparked freedom in America the way that it did,” said Fillmore.
Liguori insisted that “the science” proved mask wearing prevented spread of COVID-19, and that masks weren’t a partisan issue.
Those behind and in support of masking requirements who have deemed cloth and medical masks satisfactory these past 22 months are now saying they’re no longer ideal. Instead, experts have begun calling for an “upgrade” of sorts. University of Arizona (UArizona) Public Health Policy and Management Director Joe Gerald is one such health expert; he toldKOLD that individuals should wear masks graded KN95 or higher, in addition to getting vaccinated.
“[People should be] making more careful decisions about how you interact these next few weeks, wearing a mask that’s upgraded to KN95 or higher,” said Gerald. “Public health right now is a hard sell. We are two years into this, many of the things we’re asking people to do require a sacrifice of self to others, and it’s a hard message even in good times. […] You’re not going to be able to convince everyone to do the right thing all the time, but you’re trying to get more people to do the right thing more of the time.”
Gerald has provided his expert opinion frequently throughout the pandemic to both policymakers and news outlets. Near the beginning of the pandemic, the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) appointed Gerald to a task force charged with creating a model to predict COVID-19 spread. Gerald’s model predicted that the least amount of COVID-19 cases would occur by waiting to reopen fully until the end of May.
In early May, ADHS disbanded the task force. Instead, ADHS reportedly opted to use a then-undisclosed federal model from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The ADHS director at the time, Dr. Cara Christ, published the FEMA model later that month. Unlike the version offered by Gerald’s task force, the FEMA model didn’t account for the lifting of mitigative measures.
Gerald also predicted to reporters last June that the state would run out of hospital and ICU beds within weeks; that didn’t happen. All throughout last year Gerald pushed against UArizona’s reopening last fall for in-person class, tellingCNN last Julythat it was “a really stupid idea.” Last October, Gerald explained to The Atlantic how he’d successfully rallied UArizona to slow its reopening for in-person classes.
Gerald’s latest recommendation followed Pima County’s health department and board of supervisors implementation of another mask mandate last week. Individuals must wear masks indoors when six feet of social distancing can’t be maintained. The mandate’s enforcement measures relied on A.R.S. § 36-183.04 through § 36-183.07, as well as § 36-191. Individuals who fail to adhere to a compliance order may be charged a civil penalty up to $750, or $1,000 in one day and up to $10,000 per violation depending on the course of action undertaken by health officials. Enterprises who violate health edicts may owe up to $5,000; those who hold a valid permit could be guilty of a class 3 misdemeanor, and the permitless could be guilty of a class 2 misdemeanor. However, the supervisors noted that any civil or criminal enforcement action couldn’t be undertaken without their approval.
The shift in masking narrative hasn’t been exclusive to the Pima County area: health experts and other Democrat-run areas across the country have been shifting theirs as well. Instead of cloth masks, the new, improved standard for masking has graduated to filtering facepiece respirators (FFPs) — masks graded KN95 or higher.
Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont announced Monday that their state would distribute at-home COVID-19 tests and N95 masks beginning Thursday.
As of guidance last updated in October, the CDC recommended cloth masks and advised against N95 masks. Their recommendation was based on the need to reserve N95 masks for health care personnel.
On Monday, the CDC announced that it would halve the recommended quarantine period from ten to five days. Infected individuals must be asymptomatic and wear a mask around others to receive the shortened quarantine period. The CDC recommended the same for those exposed yet uninfected, even for the unvaccinated or more than six months out from their last COVID-19 vaccination; yet, that same class of individuals may also be permitted to avoid quarantine altogether by masking for ten days, if quarantining isn’t feasible and they test negative after day five of exposure.
The CDC claimed their decision was “motivated by science.” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky emphasized that the new priority was a safe continuance of regular life.
“CDC’s updated recommendations for isolation and quarantine balance what we know about the spread of the virus and the protection provided by vaccination and booster doses. These updates ensure people can safely continue their daily lives,” stated Walensky. “Prevention is our best option: get vaccinated, get boosted, wear a mask in public indoor settings in areas of substantial and high community transmission, and take a test before you gather.”
It’s unlikely the CDC’s sudden change in COVID-19 mitigation protocol originated within the government. Rather, the push from large corporations may have prompted the change.
Nearly a week earlier, Delta Airlines CEO Ed Bastian asked Walensky in a request letter to halve the required ten-day quarantine period for his fully vaccinated workers experiencing breakthrough COVID-19 infections. Bastian claimed that data on the Omicron variant suggested the virus was 25 to 50 percent more contagious but less virulent and with shorter incubation and infection periods for the fully vaccinated. According to the CEO, over 90 percent of Delta Airlines’ workforce has been vaccinated.
Bastian also proposed a partnership, offering up his medical experts to work alongside the government and “collect empirical data.” The CEO classified his workers as essential, equating their necessity to health care workers, police officers, firefighters, and public transportation workers.
“Our employees represent an essential workforce to enable Americans who need to travel domestically and internationally. With the rapid spread of the Omicron variant, the 10-day isolation for those who are fully vaccinated may significantly impact our workforce and operation,” wrote Bastian. “We look forward to continuing our partnership with the CDC to protect the health and safety of our people, customers, and communities as the pandemic evolves.”
Devastating. That’s how it felt earlier this week when the Arizona Supreme Court upheld the trial court’s ruling in Arizona School Boards Association v. State of Arizona. This decision strikes down critical reforms contained in a series of Budget Reconciliation Bills passed by lawmakers and signed by Governor Ducey earlier this year.