Health Board does not support Medical Freedom Act resolution

A lively discussion took place during the Stanly County Consolidated Health and Human Services Board meeting Thursday over a bill in the General Assembly concerning medical freedom.

If approved as law, House Bill 98, known as the Medical Freedom Act, would prevent local governments from discriminating against people, such as denying them employment, based on their refusal to receive a COVID-19 vaccination. It would also prohibit school districts from adopting mask policies or quarantining healthy students.

Commissioner Patty Crump said she talked with N.C. Rep. Wayne Sasser, who said he expects the bill to be approved by the State House.

“That’s good news for me because I believe in our medical freedom and freedom of choice,” Crump said.

Crump told the board she was confident the majority of the county commissioners would approve of a resolution supporting HB 98 during the Board of Commissioners meeting Monday. She said four other commissioners have already told her they would support the resolution: Mike Barbee, Bill Lawhon, Trent Hatley and Brandon King.

Crump then read the Resolution In Support Of Medical Freedom Act, which states the commission “fully supports the individual freedom to choose whether or not to be vaccinated against COVID-19.”

Commissioner Peter Asciutto, a community vaccine ambassador with Atrium Health who has spearheaded several vaccination mobile clinics in the community, was against both HB 98 and the resolution. He passed out a fact sheet featuring statistics from August 2021, showing that of the patients hospitalized and seriously sick at Atrium and Novant health facilities, the overwhelming majority were unvaccinated.

According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data from last summer, compared with vaccinated adults, the risk of dying from COVID-19 among the unvaccinated was three times higher for adults ages 18-29 years, five times higher for adults ages 30-49 years and six times higher for adults ages 50-64 years.

“To me, it (HB 98) should be called the Freedom to Spread the Virus Act,” Asciutto said.

Dr. Jenny Hinson, a hospitalist at Atrium Health Stanly who has cared for numerous Covid patients, said the vast majority of people in the medical community oppose the bill because if it becomes law, it would make it harder to convince people to get vaccinated should another public health emergency arise.

She suggested the only reason HB 98 was drafted was because it is “scoring political points for politicians whose constituents are scared by the misinformation they have received and by the falsehoods they have received.”

“To me, this is government overreach in its finest form,” Hinson said, noting that she and many others want to stop arguing about COVID-19.

Crump countered that in her view, government overreach has been mandating the wearing of masks and requiring certain people to get the vaccine.

“We should have the freedom to be able to do that,” she said.

Georgette Edgerton said people already have the choice to decide for themselves whether to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

“We already have in place that people have the freedom to wear a mask or not and people have the freedom to get vaccinated or not,” Edgerton said. “So if we already have that in place, why do we need a resolution?”

Following much back and forth, Crump made a motion for the health board to approve adding their names to the Board of Commissioners’ resolution supporting HB 98. The vote failed 7-4.