Justice signs vaccination bill, but measure will not go into effect until early next year

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Gov. Jim Justice on Friday signed legislation allowing exemptions for coronavirus vaccinations, but the law will not go into effect until January.

Gov. Jim Justice

The state Legislature last week passed the measure, which allows workers to provide documentation by a medical professional or notarized certification on religious beliefs to bypass a requirement to get vaccinated.

The bill will go into effect in 90 days.

“I know people have strong beliefs — you know, religious beliefs — or medical considerations, and I get every bit of that,” Justice said during Friday’s coronavirus briefing. “That was not part of my bill when I put it upstairs, but it was amended to say that we’re not going to go into effect until January ’22.”

Justice said he hopes employers will provide exemptions to employees despite the law not yet being effective.

Brian Dayton

“I know they will. I know they will,” he said. “They’re trying to stop this dreaded disease, they’re trying to do what’s right and everything, but at the same time, sometimes maybe in trying to look at the big picture, we don’t look maybe deep enough at the smaller picture.”

Multiple groups criticized the bill; the West Virginia Hospital Association and West Virginia Chamber of Commerce told lawmakers earlier this month that federal requirements would supersede the law once federal officials finalize rules.

Brian Dayton, the Chamber of Commerce’s vice president for policy and advocacy, said the group is still in opposition.

Brandon Steele

“What was initially described when it was introduced as simply reciting what is in federal law is, in fact, much more broad than that,” he said last week on “MetroNews Talkline.”

“It’s really going to cause a lot of problems for employers in West Virginia, we believe, both that do have COVID-19 immunization policy and those that may not but may have done something to try to incentivize their employees to get the COVID-19 vaccine.”

Delegate Brandon Steele, R-Raleigh, argued the state law would complement federal regulations.

The Kanawha-Charleston Health Department reports the following updated COVID numbers for October 23, 2021. Today, 53 new cases of COVID were identified.

“This is about giving people who have legitimate exemptions a pathway to make sure they are not losing their job,” he said.

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