Lawmakers discuss vax bar codes, other possible measures for 2022
By Guy Page
Key legislators discussed banning unvaccinated Vermonters from part or all of the Vermont State House at a planning meeting yesterday.
At present about 82% of Vermonters have been vaccinated. Planned restrictions on unvaccinated Vermonters, pending full FDA approval of a Covid-19 vaccine, already include:
- In-person college enrollment is prohibited this fall at UVM, at any state college except CCV, and at five in-state private colleges.
- Employees who refuse vaccination may be fired, Gov. Phil Scott confirmed at last week’s press conference. Also health insurers may incentivize group health care coverage based on employee vaccination, administration officials said at a press conference yesterday. This incentivization may place financial pressure on employers to ensure vaccination compliance.
The Legislative Advisory Committee met in person in the Pavilion office building yesterday to discuss how best to conduct the 2022 Session of the Legislature, in light of the pandemic health and safety concerns in a building already known for its heavy use and crowded space. Areas of discussion included an update on the State House air quality improvement plan, whether and how to continue the virtual Zoom services, and how to accommodate visitors, media, lobbyists, staff and lawmakers.
Beginning at 40:34 of this YouTube video, Advisory Committee Chair Rep. Alice Emmons (D-Springfield), Sen. Allison Clarkson (D-Windsor), Sen. Joe Benning (R-Caledonia), and Sen. Ruth Hardy (D-Addison) discussed whether to prohibit entry to Vermont’s unvaccinated minority.
“What are the assumptions we want to build in?,” Clarkson asked. “If you require to be fully vaccinated to be in the state house, that would enable you to be in the current spaces,” Allison Clarkson said. She was apparently alluding to the pressure the Legislature has been under to either expand meeting capacity, limit access to all but legislators and staff, or return to meeting via Zoom.
The close quarters of the tiny committee rooms are of particular concern.
“What’s the role of the committee chairs to say, ‘you’re not vaccinated, you’re not allowed in the committee rooms?” Emmons said. “So those are some real dicey sticky wickets.”
Benning suggested there’s no need to take restrictive action now.
“If Covid or its variant raises its head, we can immediately go back to Zoom,” Benning said. “I don’t think we need to get that part of the conversation (gesturing to Clarkson) involved in this part of the conversation.”
In response to Benning, Clarkson shrugged. She later noted that vaccination status can be “easily and cheaply” determined by machines stationed at building entrances “by QR Code,” a reference to barcodes.
Placing infrared scanners to determine body temperature – indicating a fever – was suggested. Benning noted that these machines would need to be staffed. Sgt. of Arms Janet Miller said the State House has the machines, but “they have limitations,” she said. “A cup of coffee could set it off.”
“We can’t go back to where we were…we have to say something about vaccination,” Hardy said. Regarding vaccination, the Legislature could “strongly encourage” vaccination, require “self-certification,” or require non-vaccinated witnesses to “testify via Zoom.”
A report on options for the 2022 session is due on August 15. It reportedly includes discussion and recommendations about vaccination.
Categories: State Government