Del. Todd Longanacre is looking to shield the unvaccinated from the business owners who are wanting to promote public and employee safety through the vaccination of their workforce. His opposition to mandates was also echoed by Del. Barry Bruce in a recent editorial.
Longanacre asked, in a letter to Gov. Jim Justice, for a special session addressing his current concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Due to increasing incidents of laborers within various industries being told to get vaccinated or be fired from their place of employment, many of our constituents continue to demand our protection,” Longanacre wrote. “While the Legislature awaits the Attorney General’s legal opinion concerning these scenarios, I strongly believe that we should move now to set the conditions for any such employee relief and/or protection going forward.”
Longanacre, in a previous writing published in The West Virginia Daily News, called the pandemic a “SCAMdemic,” called those looking for mask mandates “sheeple,” and wrote that “until the fatality rate of this virus reaches at least 15 percent of those infected by it, I will be voting no on any future oppressive state level initiatives fostered by kneejerk politicians due to an ‘abundance of caution.’”
Ignoring the long-term symptoms of COVID-19, which could include brain or lung damage, the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center clocks the virus at a 1.6% death rate in the United States. However, in many countries with more limited access to healthcare such as Peru and Yemen, the rates get as high as 9.2 and 18.7%.
Meanwhile, the Greater Greenbrier COVID-19 Task Force highlighted the desperate situation of local healthcare providers and how that limits the ability of the healthcare system to prevent these higher death rates.
“We have 18 COVID positives in-house currently with 7 patients in the ICU and 11 in the COVID unit,” reads the update from Greenbrier Valley Medical Center. “Three of those patients are on ventilators. These are the highest counts we’ve experienced during the pandemic. Our facility is closed to visitors right now in order to keep our staff and patients safe. As with other hospitals and industries, we are experiencing a staffing shortage which limits our capability to accept patients. We are doing our best to care for all patients. Please reserve emergencies for the emergency room. Thank you.”
Despite the request to Justice, the decision might be out of the governor’s hands. President Joe Biden announced a vaccination mandate for employers on Thursday, September 9.
“Tonight, I’m announcing that the Department of Labor is developing an emergency rule to require all employers with 100 or more employees, that together employ over 80 million workers, to ensure that their workforces are fully vaccinated or show a negative test at least once a week,” announced Biden. “Some of the biggest companies are already requiring this – United Airlines, Disney, Tyson Food, even Fox News. The bottom line is we’re going to protect vaccinated workers from unvaccinated coworkers. We’re going to reduce the spread of COVID-19. … This is not about freedom or personal choice. It’s about protecting yourself and those around you. The people you work with. The people you care about. The people you love. My job as president is to protect all Americans.”
Biden also explained why this step was being taken.
“To make matters worse, there are elected officials actively looking to undermine the fight against COVID-19. Instead of encouraging people to get vaccinated and mask up, they’re ordering mobile morges for the unvaccinated dying in their communities. This is totally unacceptable. … What makes it incredibly more frustrating is that we have the tools to combat COVID-19 [but] we have a distinct minority of Americans, supported by a distinct minority of elected officials, keeping us from turning the corner. These pandemic politics are making people sick, causing unvaccinated people to die. We cannot allow these actions to stand in the way of protecting the large majority of Amnericans who have done their part and want to get back to life as normal. … We’ve been patient, but our patience is wearing thin.”
Even taking the 1.6% death toll number would mean 527 preventable deaths in Greenbrier County alone, according to the figures from the 2020 census. This is just over one-sixth of the death toll of September 11, 2001.
The result is a limit on the freedoms of those who cannot get the vaccine, due to age or pre-existing conditions, being forced to take tremendous risks when working or getting groceries.
In a recent statement posted to social media, Bruce also pushed back against the possibility of mandates, while noting he himself had received the vaccine.
“We are witnessing constant virtue signaling and watching many (not all) vaccine influencers criticizing and insulting the unvaccinated,” wrote Bruce. “This is only serving the purpose of dividing us further. I refuse to participate in that. Expressing hatred for our fellow man because of personal decisions about whether to be vaccinated or not is simply sad. This hostility and disrespect is coming from both sides of this issue and it only causes worse division and resentment. This nation is in a very dark place. We need to come together. Mask or no mask, vaccinated or unvaccinated, we need to respect each other.”
Bruce also expressed his opposition to state-mandated decisions for certain types of healthcare while also expressing support for religious reasons for state involvement in medical decisions, despite the first amendment freedom from state-sponsored religion.
“Please note that I said, ‘we CHOSE to be vaccinated.’ For healthcare choices, every American citizen deserves to be able to choose what is personally the best decision for themselves and their families (For all of the Pro-Choice individuals reading this – Abortion is not a healthcare choice. It is against God’s will).”
Longanacre has also expressed opposition to public health mandates before sending the letter.
“The majority of emails I get daily have to do with free people not wanting their government to coerce or otherwise force them to get injections,” Longanacre recently wrote on social media. “Getting a vaccine or muzzling oneself should be left to the individual to decide, not politicians. You can rest assured knowing I will not support any mask or vaccine dictates/mandates. Especially for a virus which still has a 98%(+) recovery rate.”
Public health mandates, however, are supported by law. According to Supreme Court in Jacobson v Massachusetts, a 7-2 decision from 1905, that has been used as basis for mask and vaccination mandates. The decision explains the case “of an adult who, for aught that appears, was himself in perfect health and a fit subject of vaccination, and yet, while remaining in the community, refused to obey the statute and the regulation adopted in execution of its provisions for the protection of the public, health and the public safety, confessedly endangered by the presence of a dangerous disease. We now decide only that the statute covers the present case, and that nothing clearly appears that would justify this court in holding it to be unconstitutional and inoperative in its application to the plaintiff in error.”
Another delegate, Caleb Hanna of District 44, expressed support for this in the comments on social media, stating “Thank you Delegate! Appreciate your support of health freedom in West Virginia!”
If this type of ban were passed, it also would complement the “COVID-19 Jobs Protection Act,” which prevents businesses and other institutions from being sued if someone contracts and is hurt by the virus.
“It is the purpose of this article to … eliminate the liability of the citizens of West Virginia and all persons including individuals, health care providers, health care facilities, institutions of higher education, businesses, manufacturers, and all persons whomsoever, and to preclude all suits and claims against any persons for loss, damages, personal injuries, or death arising from COVID-19,” reads the bill.
Bruce and Longanacre voted against “COVID-19 Jobs Protection Act,” but the bill was signed by Justice in March.
If employee shielding as proposed by Longanacre is passed, the requirement would force businesses to keep employees that could risk the health of their customers and other employees. For these businesses, the only way to prevent spread of the virus would be shutting down, such as the shutdown Corn+Flour in Lewisburg intentionally took on to protect the public on Sept. 9.
“Good morning all you beautiful people! Unfortunately one of our staff members tested positive for COVID using an at-home rapid test,” Corn+Flour posted to social media. “They will be doing a follow-up test today at the clinic. Although I think the rest of us are okay, Corn+Flour will be closed until all of us here have been tested and given a clean bill of health and we’ve had a chance to clean and sanitize the shop. We ask for kindness and understanding and all the good vibes! We appreciate you all so much. Thank you for all your support.”
To read Longanacre’s full letter, see below:
Re: Call for Extraordinary Session of the Legislature Dear Governor Justice,
Due to increasing incidents of laborers within various industries being told to get vaccinated or be fired from their place of employment, many of our constituents continue to demand our protection. While the Legislature awaits the Attorney General’s legal opinion concerning these scenarios, I strongly believe that we should move now to set the conditions for any such employee relief and/or protection going forward. Especially against apparent overreaction to a virus which has a recovery rate of well over 98% for those infected with it.
This said, pursuant to Article 6, Section 19 of the West Virginia Constitution, I do hereby submit this application in writing requesting that you convene the Legislature forthwith.
The voices of the citizens of this great state demand that their voices be heard, and I do hereby concur with their constitutionally viable assertions. This is an important enough topic to justify coming together to have this conversation among the representatives of the people and on their behalf. Going forward this can no longer be a unilateral endeavor. There must be a sincere team effort and all sides of the debate deserve equal time to present empirical scientific evidence and to examine second and third order impacts of both past decisions as well as any decisions going forward.
Todd Longanacre Delegate, 42 District, WV House of Delegates Todd.Longanacre@wyhouse.gov (304) 340-3129