Kentucky Politics

A Republican state lawmaker has filed a bill that would ban businesses from requiring employees to get vaccinated or asking about employees’ vaccination status.

The proposal comes as some Kentucky businesses are doing just that—at least 11 major hospitals and health care providers in the state are requiring workers to get the vaccine as the coronavirus continues to surge.

The bill, filed by Marion Republican Rep. Lynn Bechler, would expand Kentucky’s civil rights code, forbidding employers from requiring proof of vaccination in order to work or apply for a job.

It also bans businesses from limiting or classifying employees based on their vaccination status.

Lawmakers will consider the bill when they return for the next legislative session in January.

Bechler didn’t respond to requests for comment on Wednesday.

According to Kentucky’s vaccine tracker, 55% of the state has received at least one dose of the vaccine. Kentucky officials don’t report how many people are fully vaccinated, but the Mayo Clinic says the state’s rate is 46.9%.

Meanwhile, Kentucky’s coronavirus case positivity rate reached 12.59% on Wednesday afternoon, the highest rate during the pandemic.

State officials expect ICU hospitalizations to hit their highest numbers this week as the delta variant of the virus surges across the state, predominantly among unvaccinated people. Rural hospitals are especially slammed.

Protesters have begun gathering outside some Kentucky hospitals that are requiring their employees to be vaccinated. On Monday, about 50 people gathered outside Baptist Health in Lexington, calling on hospital leaders to let employees choose whether to be vaccinated. Hospitals in Paducah are planning to endure protests as well.

Bechler filed a bill earlier this week banning state and local governments, including school districts, from requiring students to wear masks at public schools and universities.

Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear issued an executive order requiring masks in schools last week, shortly followed by an emergency masking regulation passed by the Kentucky Board of Education.

Ryland Barton is the Capitol bureau chief for Kentucky Public Radio.