Category: COVID

South Carolina House changes rules to advance anti-vaccine mandate bill

From the Greenville News:

Devyani Chhetri

Greenville News
After passing its new voting lines on Thursday, the South Carolina House changed its rules and advanced a bill against the federal vaccine mandate.

On Dec. 9, the House Ways and Means Committee amended House bill H.3126 sponsored by several Upstate lawmakers and led by Rep. Stewart Jones, R-Laurens, to add language that blocks employers in state and local governments and school districts from firing or suspending unvaccinated employees.

The bill, if passed by the Senate and later signed by Gov. Henry McMaster, will make private workers fired or suspended due to their unvaccinated status eligible for unemployment benefits.

It also allocates $10 million to the Department of Health and Environmental Control and the Medical University of South Carolina each to fund COVID-19 testing for private employers.

A previous version of the bill barred private employers from mandating vaccines and firing unvaccinated employees.

The bill would have also made employers liable to be sued by employees who were let go for not following a vaccine requirement. Moreover, employers would have to compensate the fired unvaccinated workers with wages.

That language was struck down after major pushback from the House Democrats and business communities in South Carolina.

Related:Federal court blocks vaccine requirement for federal contractors

Mandate news:Federal judge blocks vaccine mandate for health care workers

More:Circuit Court accepts Gov. Henry McMaster’s argument, stays federal vaccine mandate for businesses

Jones, while introducing the bill to the floor, said that an employer’s move to fire an unvaccinated employee is “discriminatory” in nature. That private businesses and public offices cannot mandate an “unlawful” mandate that violates the individual freedoms of employees.

Minority Leader Rep. Todd Rutherford, D-Richland, implied that a move to control how employers handle vaccine requirements is equivalent to another version of a mandate, but this time passed by the state legislature.

“We’re going to take away the freedom that they [business owners] have to operate their own business,” Rutherford said.

“You don’t have a concern that all of a sudden business owners in this state are going to be told what to do when to do it? And if they don’t do it, that they can get sued? You don’t have a concern about taking that right and creating causes of action against them?” Rutherford asked Jones.

Rep. Russell Ott, D-Calhoun, who is the assistant minority leader, said that the bill came up for discussion rather quickly.

“Like a lot of you, I thought that we were going to be here talking about redistricting. But yet here we are now with a complete assault on our business industry, and our businesses and state of South Carolina,” Ott said.

Ott highlighted the COVID-19 liability protection act passed by the legislature to protect business owners from being sued in the event someone contracted COVID-19. But this bill, he said, would open them up to liability lawsuits.

Major business groups such as the SC Chamber of Commerce, SC Manufacturers Alliance, SC Retail Association as well as regional groups such as the Greenville Chamber of Commerce, OneSpartanburg, Anderson Area Chamber of Commerce have urged the lawmakers to reject the bill for businesses to work “without government overreach” and leave employment decisions up to businesses.

“We ask the General Assembly to support free enterprise and reject this unprecedented step against the internal operations of our state’s job creators,” a letter by the group said.

The SC Trucking Association, in a separate statement, said while the association recognized this to be a result of conflict between federal vaccine mandates and state jurisdiction, this bill created a “no-win” situation for all businesses.

“We oppose the federal mandate, but are not anti-vaccine,” the SCTA’s press statement said. “Our organization generally opposes government mandates. This amended legislation is a mandate of sorts; it’s a mandated prohibition on the rights of free enterprise”

“When it comes to vaccination policies: Some do, some don’t. Some will, some won’t,” the statement continued. “We assert that businesses should be able to keep the right to set their own conditions for employment, and people can choose what’s in their own best interest.”

Ott and Justin Bamberg, D-Bamberg, further questioned the fiscal impact of this bill, though they said it was early to tell just how wide the impact would be.

Right before the end of a six-hour long debate, amendments by Majority Leader Gary Simrill, R-York, Ways and Means Chair Murrell Smith, R-Sumter and David Hiott, R-Pickens struck down the provision related to private employers and refashioned the final language of the bill.

The bill will next go to the Senate, which will reconvene in January when the legislative session begins.

On the House floor, the major opposition to the bill was mounted by House Democrats who said that this was a move by Republican lawmakers to pacify constituents and leverage the issue ahead of next year’s elections.

The legislature had already set aside a special order session to discuss and pass the redistricting bill that would decide South Carolina’s voting districts, a federal requirement enshrined in the U.S. Constitution.

Already, voting rights advocates and a few House Democrats from minority communities were concerned the new voting lines diluted minority votes by creating artificial lines that shuttered competitiveness and protected incumbents.

But ever since the redistricting vote began, the push for bills to block the federal vaccine mandate has continued to overshadow the redistricting process, even as federal courts in Georgia, Missouri and Louisiana blocked the vaccine mandate on health care workers and businesses.

Devyani Chhetri is the state government watchdog reporter. You can reach her at [email protected] or @ChhetriDevyani on Twitter.

315 State Reps. Call For End To COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate

From the Daily Caller:

December 09, 2021

More than 300 members of state legislatures around the country have signed onto a letter calling for President Joe Biden to end his COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

The letter, first circulated by South Carolina State Rep. Stewart Jones to other members of the South Carolina Republican Party, has been signed by elected officials representing 42 states. It will be submitted to the White House on Thursday, Jones told the Daily Caller in an interview.

“I’ve been writing these letters for various issues, and it’s incredible to see the impact,” Jones said. He noted a previous campaign culminating in the South Carolina School Board Association leaving the National School Board Association (NSBA) over a letter calling on the Biden administration to consider terrorism charges against individuals participating in local school board meetings. (RELATED: Majority Of School Board Associations Have Distanced Themselves From National Organization)

“Last month, I got the state out of the NSBA with a letter, and this month we’ve been sending Biden this letter, and it’s grown. We passed it around to a couple states, and they sent it to some other members,” he explained.

Jones did not intend to seek signatures on a national level, he said, but a Kansas lawmaker saw the letter and circulated it to representatives in other states. He suspects that a broad interest in American constitutional principles made the letter more appealing to other representatives.

“There’s really something there, taking back the idea of federalism, like the Founders intended,” Jones said. “A lot of it goes back to precedence in the courts. 1905, Jacobson v. Massachusetts went to the Supreme Court, and that was about the policing powers of the states. This is a state issue, and I think the majority of states would strike a mandate down.”

The letter notes that courts at the federal level have already begun to strike down the mandates. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a District Court block of the mandate targeting private businesses in November, while a District Court judge on Tuesday blocked a mandate targeting federal contractors.

South Carolina is currently considering a bill that would ban private, as well as public, vaccine mandates.

COLUMBIA, SC – JUNE 24: A sculpture of George Washington stands infront of the State Capitol Building before South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford held a press conference at the State Capitol June 24, 2009 in Columbia, South Carolina. (Photo by Davis Turner/Getty Images)

The Senate also passed a bill Wednesday night as part of the Congressional Review Act that would overturn the mandate, but it is unlikely to become law. Democrats Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Jon Tester of Montana voted with all 50 Republicans in support of the bill.

Jones said that he has heard from some Democrats, in addition to Republicans, who support his efforts.

“People are very supportive for the most part,” he explained. “Back in May, I was able to put a lot of amendments in our state budget, banning masks in K-12, masks in colleges. I’ve been fighting against COVID tyranny since March 2020.”

“It’s primarily been Republicans, but there are a lot of Democrats out there that have come up to me and said they support what I’m doing 100%. They really think they should have the ability to choose.”

Read article here:

Budget Amendments Could Strip Schools Funding if they require masks, covid testing, or vaccines

Updated: Jun. 10, 2021 at 1:44 PM EDT

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) – Three amendments to the House’s version of the South Carolina budget could strip state funding from public schools if they enforce mask mandates or require COVID-19 testing or COVID vaccines after July 1.

“This is a big concern to many parents. It’s caused a lot of confusion, a lot of frustration,” Representative Stewart Jones said. “It’s gotten to a level that’s just unbelievable.”

The provisos were approved Wednesday by the House of Representatives as a part of their version of the state’s budget.

“They withhold funding from those schools in the event they try to force someone to wear a mask or to get a vaccine in order to attend,” Jones explained. “We live in the greatest country in the world. I believe we are free people, and everybody should have the ability to decide if they want to do these things or not.”

With the State of Emergency lifted, Jones said one amendment would make mask-wearing voluntary for students and employees within K-12 public schools in South Carolina.

A second amendment makes masks and COVID-19 vaccines voluntary in state funded colleges in order to attend.

“A public institution of higher learning, including a technical college, may not use any funds appropriated or authorized pursuant to this act to require that its students have received the COVID-19 vaccination in order to be present at the institution’s facilities without being required to wear a facemask,” the proviso stated.

The third amendment makes COVID-19 testing voluntary in state funded colleges.

“Such public institutions may not use any funds to require or administer mandatory COVID-19 testing of its students,” the proviso stated. “Further, no agency or entity may use any funds appropriated or authorized in this act to assist a public institution of higher learning with such mandatory COVID-19 testing.”

“This became a really important step right now because the Governor has lifted the state of emergency,” Jones said. “After July 1, going into the next school year, it would allow people to have the flexibility to know that they have the freedom to do these things or not. And it doesn’t stop anyone from doing them. If someone wants to take the vaccine or wear a mask or take as many COVID tests as they want, then they have the freedom to do that. But what it does do is, it would stop state funding from going to K-12 schools or higher ed or colleges that try to force someone to wear a mask or take a vaccine.”

The amendments would cut off all state appropriations to an institution that violates the terms, however, there’s still some work to be done.

“We do need long-term solutions. This is just temporary,” Jones said. “This is kind of the next step in the process I think.”

Next week, some assigned lawmakers will review the House and Senate versions of the state budget. Then the entire general assembly will reconvene the following week to vote on the final version, which will need to be passed by June 30.

“As a parent of two young children who are in our public schools, I have seen and experienced first-hand a lot of the concerns over the whole pandemic. So, I stand with all these parents 100 percent and I understand their frustration,” Jones said. “This has been building. As we were going back to school, we started encountering a lot of these problems, and it was amazing how quickly a lot of it escalated. I think a lot of has to do with the fear…I think this will be a problem for a long time. Some people have this fear of COVID that has just paralyzed them, but we’ve got to come out of this…I believe people have a natural God-given right to freedom, to be free, to make their own decisions.”

In a statement, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control says they are waiting on guidance from the CDC before developing the state’s guidance for the 2022 academic year.

“DHEC recently made several updates to current guidance for schools and childcare for the remainder of the 2021 academic year,” DHEC said. “We anticipate CDC will publish updated school operations guidance for the 2022 academic year within the next few weeks. DHEC will review CDC’s updated school operations guidance once it is released in order to develop guidance for South Carolina schools. We plan to provide this as quickly as possible to allow districts and schools the time they need to plan for the upcoming year.”

Originally appeared on Live 5 News

Politics is Locking Up a Successful COVID Treatment

Because of government intervention, ‘Physicians are afraid to speak out, they’re afraid to share their experiences of treatment. They’re afraid to prescribe HCQ.’

The great economist Milton Friedman once wrote, “Underlying most arguments against the free market is a lack of belief in freedom itself.” These words not only hold true, but have gained even more relevance since Friedman wrote them in 2002. Freedom has been under siege since the arrival of COVID-19 on American soil. Greater than the crisis of the virus is the crisis of big government.

From forced quarantines of healthy people, to business shutdowns and mandatory mask ordinances, the government “cure” to COVID-19 will be studied for ages to come. Fear is an incredibly powerful phenomenon; it has played the greatest role in bringing these draconian measures to life. Yet it is precisely in times of crisis and panic that we should seek most to exercise reason, rather than succumb to our fears.

Bureaucracy and government regulations have played a key role in stoking COVID fears. The consequences of excessive regulation from the Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control have been repeatedly made clear with controls on getting tests, restrictions on what medicines can be used, and countless arbitrary treatment protocols.

During a press conference in March, President Trump said that hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) had been federally approved, as it’s shown “very, very encouraging results.” He noted, “Normally the FDA would take a long time to approve something like that…” speaking about the FDA’s control of medicine. Even the president has taken the treatment as a prophylactic.

Some positive studies were shown using HCQ in combination with azithromycin, and a steroid pack with zinc to combat symptoms of COVID-19. Yet the FDA immediately contradicted Trump’s statements, saying it was conducting clinical trials. The South Carolina medical board issued a joint statement on March 25 discouraging the prescription of HCQ to patients, not in a hospital.

Many states began purchasing stockpiles of HCQ. Then on June 15, the FDA revoked the emergency use agreement for HCQ and chloroquine, citing “serious cardiac adverse events and other potential serious side effects.” There have been patients and doctors trying to speak out about the success of this drug in treating COVID-19. Sadly, many are being silenced by special interests and those who wish to maintain control through fear. In today’s climate of cancel culture, even treatments outside of hospital systems are being canceled.

I recently sat down to discuss the potentially life-saving effects of HCQ with Dr. Michelle Hagenbuch of Laurens County, South Carolina. Regarding the State Board of Medical Examiners guidance, she said that “it put more pressure on physicians when it said that you had to put the COVID diagnosis on that medication. In South Carolina, we do not have to actually tag a diagnosis to a medication to a drug. So, I thought that put added pressure and seemed inappropriate.”

Because of government intervention, “Physicians are afraid to speak out, they’re afraid to share their experiences of treatment. They’re afraid to prescribe HCQ because of the order that was placed.” This along with the added pressure from the FDA, has made it more difficult for physicians to help COVID-19 patients recover.

“We have to have freedom as doctors to use our experience, education, and training to treat each individual patient,” she said at one point in the interview.

One of the most fascinating examples Hagenbuch shared is a case with identical twins in their fifties. Both were diagnosed with COVID-19 around the same time. The twin who was prescribed the combination of HCQ, azithromycin, and zinc improved by 85 percent within 48 hours of taking the first dose, while the other twin who did not have HCQ is still battling COVID-19.

HCQ has a long history and “is on the WHO list of essential medicines.” As Hagenbuch said, “In 2017 it was the 128th most commonly prescribed medication with over 5 million prescriptions in the United States alone. So, obviously this is a well-used, known medication.”

Hagenbuch has had “very good success” and “never had any problems with side effects at all” with prescribing HCQ to patients with COVID-19 and previously for other uses. Many other physicians and patients are reporting successful stories using hydroxychloroquine to beat COVID-19: “It was interesting the CDC says HCQ is completely safe to give to pregnant women or nursing women. Now all of the sudden it’s like it’s the Black Death.”

Part of the problem is that governments have restricted the use of HCQ for COVID-19 purposes to inside hospitals only. According to Hagenbuch, “I’ve been in practice for 25 years, part of my goal is to keep people out of the hospital. I think it is counter-productive to say ‘just do whatever until you get sick enough to require hospitalization.’ In this day and age, we have lots of different weapons available to hopefully keep people out of the hospital.”

Regarding “side effects” being reported by the FDA, Hagenbuch said, “One of my issues with the trials in the hospitals is that they’re using ten times the usual dosages that we use to treat lupus or rheumatoid arthritis. So, let’s take a very common medication like amoxicillin, if I give you ten times the usual dosage of amoxicillin, do you think you might get sick from it? It’s a distinct possibility.”

There is a mountain of positive data and peer reviews showing HCQ’s effectiveness as “extremely positive” as a prophylactic and taken in the early stages with “slightly negative to positive” in the late stages of COVID-19. Once people are in the hospital they are usually in a bad stage. Once they’re put on a ventilator, their chance of recovery becomes less likely. This is why government orders in some states are problematic. They only allow HCQ as a treatment for COVID-19 once a person is admitted to a hospital.

Government not allowing HCQ to be used to combat COVID-19 is the perfect example of why government control of medicine is dangerous. The medicine is prescribed for other ailments, but it’s somehow not for COVID-19.

The question we should be asking is why do the government and big pharma discourage the use of safe, widely tested, and inexpensive medicines like HCQ, especially in the face of such staggeringly positive results? Not only is it safe, but it is also affordable at $37 per 100 pills.

By issuing orders and mandates like that issued in my state, government at all levels continues to limit innovation and freedom for the people who need them most right now. As Hagenbuch says, “One size fits nobody!’

I believe she’s absolutely right. Maybe more people could beat COVID-19 and perhaps many other issues if the government would just get out of the way. Sign the petition to demand freedom in medicine.

Originally appeared in the Federalist.