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.
On Wednesday, Secretary of the Army Christine Wormuth issued a directive that commanders are to begin involuntary administrative separation proceedings against any regular Army soldier, reserve-component soldier serving on Title 10 active-duty, and cadet who has refused the COVID-19 vaccination order and does not have an approved or pending exemption request.
Wormuth’s Army Directive 2022-02 (Personnel Actions for Active Duty Soldiers Who Refuse the COVID-19 Vaccination Order and Accession Requirements for Unvaccinated Individuals) was announced by U.S. Army Public Affairs. It is based on claims that Army readiness is at risk due to soldiers who are not vaccinated.
The Army has not yet involuntarily separated any soldiers solely for refusing the order to be vaccinated, but the separation proceedings are to be conducted “as expeditiously as possible,” the announcement states.
“Army readiness depends on Soldiers who are prepared to train, deploy, fight and win our nation’s wars,” said Wormuth. “Unvaccinated Soldiers present risk to the force and jeopardize readiness.”
The announcement also reveals that as of Jan. 26, Army commanders have relieved a total of six regular Army leaders, including two battalion commanders. They have also issued 3,073 general officer written reprimands to soldiers for refusing the vaccination order.
One of the two exceptions addressed in Wormuth’s directive impacts soldiers who will complete their separation or retirement, or begin a transition leave, on or before July 1. They will be granted a temporary exemption so that they may complete their separations or retirements.
In addition, unvaccinated soldiers who have requested medical exemption or religious accommodations will also be temporarily exempt from the COVID-19 vaccination requirement while their requests are reviewed.
However, unvaccinated service members, even if exempted, must continue to comply with COVID-19 screening and testing requirements and applicable safety standards. And they will face additional “counseling” with the goal of changing their minds.
“Army leaders will continue to counsel all unvaccinated individuals on the health benefits of receiving the COVID-19 vaccine,” the announcement states.
There are also some financial hits described in the directive. Service members separated for being unvaccinated will not be eligible for involuntary separation pay. And they may be subject to recoupment of any unearned special or incentive pays.
The city of Phoenix decided to suspend the city’s vaccine mandate after a federal judge halted President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate for federal contractors. The city based its mandate for its employees under an interpretation of its workforce as federal contractors based on the amount of federal dollars and contractors it had.
The Phoenix City Council was scheduled to discuss their vaccine mandate during a policy session on Tuesday. Since the city announced the mandate’s suspension shortly before the meeting took place, officials instead modified the agenda item to showcase how well the city had handled the pandemic, the timeline of events preceding the mandate, and an explanation why the city classified itself as a federal contractor.
City Manager Jeff Barton offered a prelude to the presentation by insisting that the mandate was decided upon for the greater good.
“The January 18 vaccine mandate was not a city of Phoenix mandate. It was a federal mandate passed onto the city via executive order and with today’s ruling our city has halted implementation,” emphasized Barton. “Our fight against COVID-19 has forced us to be creative and innovative with our service delivery, and at times has forced us to make extremely difficult decisions as public servants for the greater good.”
Barton added that city administrators were “extremely flexible” with their COVID-19 policies for employees throughout the pandemic.
“I value their right to personal choice, religious freedom, and other convictions. But I also have an obligation to ensure the city operates within state and federal laws,” said Barton.
A week after the city announced their mandate, Councilman Sal DiCiccio called for a public vote on the mandate. DiCiccio said that the mandate would only strain further an already critically manned first responder force.
The response of first responders to the mandate was consistent with DiCiccio’s assessment. The Phoenix Law Enforcement Association (PLEA) and The United Phoenix Firefighters Association (UPFA) joined Attorney General Mark Brnovich’s lawsuit against President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate for federal contractors and employees.
Vaccines should always be voluntary and never be forced. But apparently, the City of Phoenix doesn’t care about freedom.
Last month, the city announced that its employees will have until January 18, 2022 to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. And it doesn’t even matter if they work from home. The new policy lacks any sort of exemption for that because, of course, these mandates aren’t based on commonsense.
But don’t worry. Employees will receive $75 as a “thanks” for their compliance. And with rampant inflation and rising oil prices, that should cover at least one tank of gas. Maybe.
The city claims that its simply following President Biden’s vaccine mandate for federal contractors. But this just further shows how comfortable Phoenix is with such a blatant abuse of power.
The Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) announced an informational panel convincing parents to vaccinate their children featuring Dr. Richard Carmona: a board of directors member for McKesson, a major distributor of the COVID-19 vaccine. The press release failed to mention Carmona’s membership on McKesson’s board. Carmona didn’t mention his director role during the virtual town hall, either. ADHS only identified Carmona as the former U.S. Surgeon General and Governor Doug Ducey’s special advisor for public health emergency preparedness. Ducey appointed Carmona to that role in August.
McKesson also made big moves with top Arizona officials in August, though not of the positive sort. Prior to Ducey’s appointment of Carmona, McKesson and several other major pharmaceutical companies reached a tentative $26 billion settlement with Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich over their role in the opioid crisis. Johnson & Johnson was also part of that settlement. Carmona wasn’t a director for McKesson at the time. About two weeks after the tentative settlement and Ducey’s appointment of Carmona as his special advisor for public health emergency preparedness, McKesson elected Carmona to their board and appointed him to their Compensation and Compliance Committees.
During the ADHS virtual town hall, Carmona claimed that the vaccine was safe because independent scientists have concluded as such. He promised that there was “very little risk, if any” for a child receiving the COVID-19 vaccine.
“The emergency use authorization tells you that scientists independently have studied this, validated it and feel that this vaccine is efficacious – meaning it works – and that it does no harm,” said Carmona.
Carmona said that parents should vaccinate their children not because COVID-19 poses a serious harm to them but “because it is a vaccinatable disease” and that it’s just what parents always do for any other vaccinatable disease.
“The science is sound. The science tells us this is the right thing to do, and we have a long, long history of understanding how vaccines work, and how it’s prevented our children from getting all of these diseases that grievously can cause serious harm and death – and today we don’t see that in society if our children are vaccinated,” asserted Carmona.
On November 2, McKesson announced that it began distributing ancillary supply kits needed to administer the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for children aged 5-11, per the FDA’s emergency-use authorization (EUA) for child vaccinations.
McKesson has served as one of the biggest distributors of the COVID-19 vaccine. In July, McKesson reported that they’d distributed over 185 million doses of the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson/Janssen COVID-19 vaccines to date. They added that they had readied enough kits to distribute another 785 million doses for all vaccine types once available. The latest data reflects an estimated 451 million doses administered in the U.S. so far.
Based on a report filed to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in June of this year, non-employee directors are compensated with $110,000 annual cash retainer, $180,000-value restricted stock unit (RSU) award, $240,000 annual premium (50 percent cash, 50 percent RSUs), and $10,000 annual cash retainer for chairing a standing committee or $20,000 for chairs of Audit and Compensation Committees. Expenses for attending board and committee meetings are also covered.
Carmona’s compensation wasn’t listed on the report because he wasn’t elected until September.
The former surgeon general has a wide array of leadership roles in other health-related areas. Carmona became the University of Arizona’s (UArizona) first distinguished professor of public health at their Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health. He’s also been at the forefront of UArizona’s COVID-19 response plan.
Additionally, Carmona serves as a director for Herbalife Nutrition, a multi-level marketing company (MLM) offering diet supplements that has faced controversy over alleged connections between its products and damage to the liver or kidneys. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) warns that MLMs are often a guise for pyramid schemes, which are illegal. Herbalife Nutrition settled with the FTC in 2016 for $200 million over allegations that they falsely told customers they could profit from the business.