INDIANAPOLIS, -- A number of Indiana medical and business organizations fought Tuesday against a Republican proposal that would have ended the statewide COVID-19 public safety emergency and allowed for broad exemptions from workplace vaccinations.
At a time when Indiana's hospitalizations and infections are increasing again, the proposed changes to state laws were criticized by a legislative committee.
Matt Lehman, Republican House Majority Leader, presented the proposal to protect individual rights. Workers would be able to claim religious or medical exemptions if they were required by their employer for COVID-19 vaccines.
The proposal also includes three administrative actions that Gov. Eric Holcomb said that it would allow him to repeal the COVID-19 state public health emergency order, which has been in effect since March 2020. However, this proposal goes further amid national conservative opposition to President Joe Biden’s proposed vaccination mandates for large businesses.
Lehman stated that he believes the Republican-dominated Legislature should act fast to stop workers being fired. Democrats asked why GOP leaders tried to force it through with final vote set for Monday, nine days after the proposal had been released. The Legislature was not scheduled to resume its session until January.
Lehman stated, "I've heard people say "I'm on chopping block,"" This cannot wait until January. This is something we must do now.
Representatives from the Indiana Medical Association, Indiana Hospital Association, and other medical organizations argued that the proposal would discourage efforts to increase the state’s COVID vaccination rate as well as limit hospitalizations.
According to the state health division, Indiana hospitals admitted approximately 1,760 COVID-19 victims as of Monday. This is a nearly 45% increase over two weeks prior and a decline from September's summer surge peak of almost 2,700 patients. Indiana continues to experience about 20 deaths per day due to COVID-19.
Tharp stated, "We all want the pandemic to stop." "But we see patients every single day who would have benefited from vaccines."
Holcomb refuted claims that ending the state’s public health emergency order would indicate that the pandemic has passed despite Indiana's 51.5% rate of fully-vaccinated citizens being ranked 11th in the country by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The Republican governor stated Monday that he hopes it conveys the message that getting vaccinated will reduce the chances of you being admitted to the hospital or worse. "Many people across Indiana and around the world have done this, and they are avoiding terrible consequences."
Indiana law currently permits businesses to hire and fire non-union employees for any reason, unless they are in violation of anti discrimination laws that cover factors like age, gender, or race. K-12 students as well as those attending state residential colleges must be immunized against several diseases such diphtheria and tetanus.
Major business groups opposed the proposed exemptions from vaccinations. Employers would have to agree to the proposal from the state chamber of commerce, even though they feel it is best for their customers and employees.
During the hearing, which lasted more than six hours, many people testified against COVD-19 vaccinations. They also argued against federal mandates.
Many nurses and health workers spoke out to lawmakers about their job losses due to denials of religious exemptions. They expressed concern about the loss of staff at hospitals so that they can treat more patients.
Anderson Kristi Grabowski said that her husband was at high risk for being fired because he didn't get the vaccine shots. She also stated that lawmakers shouldn’t approve "half measures" to terminate the governor's COVID-19 executive order.
"Gov. Holcomb is not a King. Grabowski stated, "It is your responsibility to remind him of this." "Hoosiers' medical freedom must not be tied with federal purse strings."