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The Collier County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously March 28 to consider an ordinance establishing the Collier County Health Freedom Bill of Rights. The ordinance, sponsored by Commissioner Chris Hall, is meant to ensure that county residents have the freedom to make their own decisions when it comes to their health.

“I’m not trying to dig up COVID and dig up all the wounds, but it was a time that we lived through and we ought to be able to learn from the mistakes that we made,” Hall said. “It was things that we did not know, so decisions were made and actions were taken that benefitted some and didn’t benefit others. What I would like to make sure here in Collier County is that everyone has the right to choose their health choices based on what’s good for them.”

The ordinance, which would be applicable only to unincorporated Collier County, lists limits on what can be imposed medically by businesses and organizations. A business may not require customers to have a COVID-19 vaccination and cannot require anyone to provide documentation proving that they are vaccinated. A private employer cannot impose a COVID-19 vaccination mandate on any employee.

Additionally, the county may not impose a mask mandate or a quarantine order without unanimous approval of the board of commissioners. The county also will not recognize any health mandates or direction from the World Health Organization or any other international body unless compelled by federal or state law.

About 30 public speakers stepped up to share their thoughts on the ordinance. Those speakers included Domenico Priano, who feels his quality of life has been negatively impacted by the vaccine. After graduating from high school in 2020, Priano enlisted in the United States Marine Corps and, although he was deemed perfectly healthy, he was mandated to take the COVID-19 vaccine for being part of the military. Less than six months later, Priano started experiencing excruciating chest pain and numbness on the left side of his body and had to be discharged.

“Commissioners, stand up and do whatever needs to be done to protect the lives of your citizens,” Priano said. “Pharmaceutical companies should have never been trusted to begin with, do your part and stop the deaths and injury of the hundreds of thousands of innocent American lives. Medical mandates must end.”

April Donahue, executive director of the Collier County Medical Society, said that although she recognizes the importance of patient rights and freedoms and how the ordinance promotes the well-being of the residents, her organization cannot support what is being proposed.

“The CCMS board acknowledges throughout the COVID-19 pandemic there has been a loss of trust by community members in the many systems that we have in our country on many levels. However, we believe the proposed resolution would not be effective in rebuilding this trust and we cannot support it as written,” Donahue said.

Upon the unanimous vote, a first hearing of the Collier County Health Freedom Bill of Rights ordinance will be brought forward at a later date.

“We don’t want to limit or control anybody’s freedom, but when I hear the opposition, when I hear the public health, what you want is my freedom to agree with your freedom,” Hall said. “If I don’t choose to get vaccinated, then you don’t want to lose control based on this ordinance and that’s what I see it as. I don’t see it as infringing on your freedom; we are infringing on your control over us.”

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