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W.Va., Ohio both proposing bills halting mask, vaccination mandates

Published: Sep. 1, 2021 at 5:33 PM EDT
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PARKERSBURG, W.Va. (WTAP) - Gov. Jim Justice continues to avoid issuing mask mandates, even as COVID-19 active cases in West Virginia continue to rise.

“I don’t completely believe that the mask will protect you, because of all of the knowledge that the medical community has given me, but it absolutely makes your odds better,” the governor said at his Wednesday briefing. “The medical community believes there’s not enough evidence to take away the fact that having the vaccine does help you far more than natural immunities.”

But some West Virginia lawmakers are calling on the governor to call a special session of the legislature, to pass bills Wood County Del. Roger Conley, himself a COVID survivor, is proposing to ban mask orders and requirements by employers for their workers to be vaccinated.

Conley says members of his family continue to be infected with the virus, even after taking precautions.

“I, right now, have an aunt in a hospital bed in extremely serious condition, from COVID,” Conley said at a rally in Parkersburg Monday. “She’s been living in a bubble.-she wore a mask inside of her house when she was alone. She wore a mask in her car when she was alone. The mask just don’t work.”

Conley said he and other members of his family got COVID late last year, in spite of taking similar precautions. He has authorized two bills, one outlawing mask mandates and the other outlawing vaccination mandates. He says if Justice doesn’t call a special session, he is asking constituents to ask legislators to support doing so. Support of 60 delegates and 21 senators is needed to bring legislators to Charleston.

This comes as Wood County Schools amended its policy on face coverings Monday, requiring masks be worn in school buildings. Businesses and health care groups, including WVU Medicine, are increasingly requiring all their employees to be vaccinated.

In Ohio, bills have been introduced to end mask and vaccination mandates in both the House of Representatives and the Senate.

Southeastern Ohio Representative Jay Edwards is co-sponsor of House Bill 400, barring schools from issuing mask mandates. Since the beginning of classes in August, several school districts, including Marietta City Schools, have issued mask orders to contain the spread of the virus.

House Bill 248, also co-sponsored by Edwards, seeks to prohibit not only mandatory vaccinations, but vaccination “status disclosures”: requirements that proof of vaccinations be presented in certain instances.

In the Ohio Senate, Senate Bill 169 also prohibits mandatory vaccination requirements and proof of vaccinations.

In both states, backers say both masks and vaccines should be individual choices, referring to the constitutional rights of individuals.

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