In one of the more bizarre developments in the heated political wars over COVID-19, Republicans in the Florida Senate have defeated a measure that would have stopped schools from banning vaccinated teachers.
The measure was introduced by Democratic State Sen. Jason Pizzo earlier this week to protect teachers and other workers from being barred or fired by employers because they’ve been inoculated against the deadly pandemic. He was spurred to act after a private Miami school put vaccinated teachers on notice that their jobs were at risk.
Pizzo’s proposal was an amendment to a bill just passed by the Florida legislature Thursday that would prohibit businesses, schools and government entities in the state from asking anyone to provide proof of a COVID-19 vaccination.
In other words, in Florida, vaccinated workers can be barred from their jobs, while the unvaccinated can’t be. “In Florida, you can get fired for protecting your health,” said a crestfallen Pizzo following the vote.
Pizzo introduced his measure following news that the Centner Academy elementary school in Miami had issued an edict that vaccinated teachers or staff would be banned from having any contact with students. Vaccinated employees risked losing their jobs, warned school founder Leila Centner. Centner and her husband have made significant contributions to the Republican Party.
According to a student, a Centner Academy science teacher told a class that they shouldn’t hug their vaccinated parents for more than 5 seconds because it was too dangerous, CBS Channel 4 Miami reported. (Check out the video up top.)
In an email to staff and a letter to parents earlier this month, Centner claimed without any evidence that vaccinations caused unspecified issues with women’s reproductive systems and fertility, including changes in menstrual cycles. She did not cite a single study, because none exist. Centner acknowledged that her opinions were “new and yet to be researched.”
Pizzo called Centner’s notions “quackery.” It’s “just bizarre that would be okay,” Pizzo told HuffPost in a statement. He called Centner’s policy “quite dangerous, and it goes against well-accepted science.”
Pizzo said he introduced his amendment after he was told by the Florida Department of Health and the Education Department that there was nothing they could do about Centner’s policy — even though health experts have warned that it puts workers, students and communities at greater risk of contracting COVID-19.
A backer of the measure, Republican state Sen. Jeff Brandes of St. Petersburg, pleaded with his colleagues before the vote: “Let’s show that the Senate is not insane, that we’re reasonable people and that we are not going to allow businesses to prevent someone from working there for doing exactly what we told them that they should do.”
Pizzo’s measure would have prevented any business, government entity, or educational institution from moving to “reject, restrict, obstruct, interfere, prevent, or deny” a person entry, services or use because the person is vaccinated against COVID-19.
It failed to win the necessary majority in a 19-19 vote in the Senate Thursday, even though some crossed the aisle to support it in the Republican-controlled chamber.
GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis, meanwhile, took credit for the new legislation that bars proof of vaccination in the state and said he’ll quickly sign the measure into law.
“The irony is that this bill would grant rights to the people who have not been vaccinated, but it doesn’t protect me,’’ state Democratic Rep. Michael Grieco told The Miami Herald. “It’s time to start thinking ... about science and less about politics.”
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