Crook and Jefferson counties have declared pre-emptive state of emergencies to deal with a “foreseeable lack of adequate resources” in health care, education and public safety because of Oregon’s COVID vaccine mandate.
Teachers, health care workers, and many first responders are required to be vaccinated by October 18th.
Those who fail to show proof of vaccination face termination.
In its declaration, Jefferson County commissioners Kelly Simmelink, Wayne Fording and Mae Huston said the mandate has forced many employees to leave their jobs instead of getting the vaccine.
“The Board of Commissioners requests that the State of Oregon immediately withdraw its vaccine mandates to prevent further exhaustion and departure of providers of core public services,” the declaration reads.
“It basically says, hey we are open to state and federal assistance and I think that is a key step,” Simmelink said. “I am looking around right now, and there are five committed counties that have done this already today or within the last few days and a whole lot more to come. In rural Oregon we have to get to the point where we can have these discussions with the governor so she can see what is happening. I think she means well, but the unintended consequences in a rural community… it’s magnified here, it really is. I am not overselling that in any shape or form.”
Hospitals, school districts and other agencies across the state have warned their communities about mass resignations over the requirement.
“In our jail system alone 40% of our sheriff’s deputies are vaccinated,” Simmelink said. “So, that is not going to cut it come Oct. 18.”
But nobody can say for certain what the impact will be because the deadline is still several weeks away and those agencies aren’t releasing any personnel information.
Jefferson County School District Spokesman Joseph Prechtl said the district was “concerned about the impact the vaccine mandate will have on our workforce that serves our students and families.”
Prechtl said there has been some communication between commissioners and district staff regarding the vaccine mandate.
“We shared that we anticipate it having an impact on our staffing levels,” he said.
But he could not say how many staff members have resigned or planned to resign based on the mandate.
Commissioners acknowledged in the declaration that COVID has exhausted health care employees, first responders, and teachers and filled regional hospitals with patients.
St. Charles on Wednesday reported it had 88 COVID patients; 76 of them aren’t fully vaccinated.
In the ICU, 14 of the 15 patients are not fully vaccinated.
The Oregon Health Authority and federal health officials have stressed that vaccinations are the fastest way to help slow the current surge of COVID cases.
But the Jefferson County declaration says mandating the vaccine for teachers, health care workers and first responders “will have a detrimental impact.”
But Jefferson County believes mandating the vaccine for those groups “will have a detrimental impact” on the delivery of services.
According to the OHA, 61% of the eligible population of Jefferson County is vaccinated.
There have been just over 3,000 COVID cases in Jefferson County and 46 people have died.
“This is going to be devastating to not only people’s public safety, but to our economy and just the reason we live in Oregon in the first place,” Simmelink concluded.
You can read the full declaration below:Xerox Scan_09152021083401