SC Senate passes bill banning COVID-19 vaccine requirements

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCSC/AP) – The South Carolina Senate passed a bill that would ban businesses from refusing to serve people who haven’t gotten the COVID-19 vaccine and prevent public employers from requiring the shots.

The Senate approved the bill 29-12 on Wednesday.

Senators made changes to a House bill passed in December, meaning the proposal returns to the House to see if it accepts those changes.

Senators initially put in a large unemployment tax penalty for private businesses that fired unvaccinated workers. But instead, they compromised to allow fired workers to collect unemployment benefits, retroactive to the last nine months.

The passage came the same week the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control reported that the state ranked 50th in new COVID-19 cases according to data from the previous week.

“We have one of the lowest rates anywhere,” a board member said in Thursday’s meeting.

All 46 counties are green on the Center for Disease Control’s indicator map, meaning all counties have a low level of COVID-19 right now.

DHEC said the Omicron BA.2 subvariant of coronavirus is the most common in South Carolina currently, but the agency has not seen a large surge in cases like with previous variants.

But DHEC cautioned the number of new cases could be higher because it does not receive information on at-home rapid test results.

The state’s COVID-19 incident response team will stand down on Apr. 30 after more than two years of service.

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