With a vaccine mandate for all school staff and health care workers, unvaccinated personnel now have to make a choice.
Get vaccinated or lose your job.
“It’s something that I am willing to lose my job over because in my opinion it is not fully safe yet and we don’t know enough about it,” said Licensed Practical Nurse at East Cascade Retirement Community Heather Peterson.
Peterson’s been a certified nursing assistant for over 20 years.
“I’ve done this my entire life and this is what I am going to keep doing,” Peterson said. “I think that .. I am hoping that this will pass and they’ll ask us back or they’ll find another way for unvaccinated nurses to have a place.”
The Peterson family is a nursing family.
“I have a sister in Portland who is a medical assistant, she’s fully vaccinated and very adamant about the vaccine,” Peterson said. “My mom is a retired nurse for OHSU, fully vaccinated and very adamant about it. We have a family member who is a nurse at St. Charles in Redmond also and they are as strong with their beliefs in vaccination as I am about not getting vaccinated.”
Peterson believes around 40% of workers at East Cascade Retirement Community are unvaccinated.
Jefferson County Commissioner Kelly Simmelink and Crook County Judge Seth Crawford issued a joint social media post about the mandate Monday saying, “We agree that this is going to result in absolute tragedy and disaster for all of Central Oregon.”
Lisa Goodman, a spokesman for St. Charles says their latest report shows 3,566 of 4,664 caregivers (or about 76.5%) are vaccinated.
Jefferson County Interim Fire Chief Casey Skaar believes around 30% of his roughly 50 employees aren’t fully vaccinated.
“With the fire district all the staff except for admin has to be at least an EMT basic and so that is a health care certificate for providing basic life support and we have a lot of volunteers that are EMR, EMT, or paramedic,” said Skaar.
Now they must make a choice.
“Unfortunately with taking the choice away from deciding what they want to do, now they have to make a tougher choice of whether or not they want to continue working for the fire district, whether as a volunteer or a paid employee,” Skaar added.
Skaar says they rely heavily on volunteers.
“We could potentially lose volunteers which would affect our response to responding to emergencies,” Skarr said.
Simmelink released another statement Tuesday.
“I’m terribly concerned about our small rural communities ability to treat, teach or in the case of fire and medics…save lives and property,” he said. “ We do not have people waiting in the wings to replace those who choose to exercise their medical or religious freedoms.”
Peterson says it is not easy being a nurse right now.
“It’s really emotional for everybody because nothing is really black and white and people are making it personal when it is not as personal, it is definitely not as political as people are trying to make it, it’s just a medical choice and we have medical rights,” Peterson concluded.