Today in “how far can your rights be infringed upon before people start to push back” news…
About 12,000 New York City students are being prevented from attending in-person learning because their parents “failed to sign consent forms for weekly random testing”, Bloomberg reported last week. The students are part of a larger group of 190,000 pre-school through elementary students who returned to classrooms in December.
While about 60,000 pre-school and kindergarten students are exempt from testing, there are still about 130,000 students who are required to participate in random testing.
Before COVID hit in March, the hottest topic at the state capitol was whether to eliminate the religious exemption to childhood vaccines. With the COVID vaccine on everyone’s mind, does that complicate the debate?
“It’s probably not complicated by the facts but probably more complicated by the emotion of it,” incoming House Speaker Matt Ritter said.
Ritter has promised a vote on the issue next year.
With the first doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine now being administered in the U.S., the federal government is giving employers around the country the green light to require immunization for most workers.
In general, companies have the legal right to mandate that employees get a COVID-19 shot, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) said Wednesday. More specifically, employers are entitled — and required — to ensure a safe workplace in which “an individual shall not pose a direct threat to the health or safety of individuals in the workplace.” That can mean a company requiring its workforce to be vaccinated.
The Americans with Disabilities Act limits an employer’s ability to require workers to get a medical examination. But the EEOC’s latest guidance clarifies that getting vaccinated does not constitute a medical exam. As a result, ordering employees to get a COVID-19 shot would not violate the ADA.
Anthony Sabatini, a GOP state representative from Florida, said he will file legislation to repeal a state law that could force people to get vaccinated during a public health emergency.
Sabatini warned Floridians that under the current law, Governor Ron DeSantis or any future governor of Florida could violate “personal liberties” by forcing people to quarantine or receive a vaccine.
“Right now in Florida, under the public health emergency statute chapter 381, they can literally take you, test you, quarantine you, but also force you to take a vaccine. They can restrain you and force you to do that,” he said. “The powers have not been used yet, but they’ve been on the books for over 25 years and it’s important that Floridians know that this power can’t be exercised by government, because it’s just too much an invasion of their personal liberties.”
Sabatini was referring to chapter 381.00315 of Florida state law, which gives significant powers to the State Public Health Officer in the event of a public emergency, which Florida has been operating under since the pandemic took hold in March.
Britain’s top counter-terrorism officer today called for a nationwide debate on the introduction of new laws to punish people who spread anti-vaccination conspiracy theories.
Met Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu said that there should be a discussion about whether it is “the correct thing for society to allow” people to spread “misinformation that could cost people’s lives” as he responded to concern that false claims online could undermine the take up of Covid-19 vaccines.
Mr Basu stopped short of endorsing the idea of a new law but his intervention will strengthen pressure on ministers to act against conspiracy theorists making false claims about the vaccines.
“There is a debate for society to have about free speech and responsibility and people who are spreading misinformation that could cost people’s lives… whether that is the correct thing for this society to allow to happen,” said Mr Basu.
Officials said that one reason for Mr Basu’s concern was that Islamist and far-Right groups were using false claims about coronavirus to radicalise followers.