Pushback on Senate’s COVID rules delivers win for transparency, says Fortunato

A major part of Sen. Phil Fortunato’s objection to the Senate’s COVID protocols centered on language in the required testing release form, which currently states:

“In addition to the above I understand and agree that if any Test conducted during my employment, or while I am on Client’s work site or premises, returns positive, I will be required to follow the medical advice provided to me through Client and their designees, which may include isolation, quarantine, and possibly hospitalization.”

Upon questioning, legislative attorneys indicated that it is not legally enforceable, so Fortunato declined to sign the waiver as written. His refusal meant he could not get tested and participate in the opening-day proceedings in person.

“If it’s not legally enforceable, then I don’t see why I can’t strike that language,” said Fortunato. “I appreciate the work the Senate administration is doing to keep us safe, but they are not my doctors. If I contract COVID again, I won’t be signing anything that says I must follow their medical directives.”

In an email to the secretary of the Senate, Fortunato asked if the vendor would accept that section being deleted and if not, would the Senate accept testing from a medical facility that uses the same process. The secretary replied that the vendor will be changing the contested language starting this Friday to:

“I will be required to immediately leave the premises.”

“I am glad they addressed the concerns that many of our members and I had who felt we were forced to sign this waiver under duress to participate in the process,” Fortunato said. “I’ve received emails from staff members saying thank you and that they will be using the new form on Friday.”

Fortunato continues to assert that the testing requirements are additional qualifications not enumerated in the state constitution. With the agreed-upon changes, it makes it least reasonable to participate, he added.