A sign outside the Richmond registrar’s office, an early voting site, encourages people to wear masks and practice social distancing. (Ned Oliver/Virginia Mercury)
Democrats in the Virginia Senate voted down GOP legislation Monday that would have classified mask mandates and vaccine requirements as illegal discrimination.
The measures, proposed by Sen. Amanda Chase, R-Chesterfield, drew unanimous support from Republicans on the Senate’s General Laws Committee.
“It’s time to give people the freedom to breathe and the freedom of choice,” Chase told the panel.
Witnesses who spoke in support of the legislation said they opposed masks for a variety of reasons. One mother told lawmakers that masks gave her child nightmares. One man said that masks gave him seizures. A third witness said masks made her dizzy.
“We are being discriminated against,” said Doris Knicks, who spoke to the panel remotely.
On vaccines, Sen. Siobhan Dunnavant, R-Henrico, a practicing OBGYN, called it “egregious and a complete violation of an individual’s right to privacy” for businesses like restaurants to require proof of a COVID-19 vaccine.
“We shouldn’t be using this as a litmus test for people to be able to get into stores,” she said.
Democrats on the panel noted vaccine requirements are not unique to COVID-19 and said businesses should have the authority to take steps to keep their employees safe.
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