Both say commissioners oppose vaccination checks and believe they violate federal anti-discrimination laws. Both were adopted unanimously.
Commissioners have received a large number of letters, not all from county residents, opposing the idea of having companies verify vaccine cards before customers are allowed in without masks.
Business owners have also said they don’t want to be forced to check immunization status. Commissioners Mary Starrett and Lindsay Berschauer have spoken out in public meetings and on social media to oppose checks.
Some companies are also allowed to create separate seating sections for vaccinated and unvaccinated customers, a provision vehemently opposed by Starrett and Berschauer.
Commissioner Casey Kulla said he didn’t like to put businesses in an awkward position, but noted they had the option of continuing to require all customers to wear masks.
Last week, Starrett sought board approval for an order that would have banned state vaccine checks in the county, but County Prosecutor Christian Boenisch told him she would violate both state law and federal law. Starrett offered to revise the order. This week, however, Starrett and Berschauer submitted two resolutions opposing the check and declaring them illegal instead. Resolutions do not have the force of law.
Berschauer said she was in favor of making it clear to business that “if you want to do it, we don’t support you, whether or not you have the legal right to do it.”
The first resolution, submitted by Starrett, states that allowing customers who show proof of vaccination to not be masked “will adversely affect patient privacy and require a person to wear a mask or show a” vaccination passport “violates the law. a person’s right to privacy and could result in a company being reported to the US Department of Justice for civil rights violation. “
He claims that “denying entry to a place of ‘public housing’ to a person who is unable or unwilling to wear a mask or who has chosen not to be vaccinated violates state and federal anti-discrimination laws. , and entry to these places may not be prohibited due to their legally protected status. “
Further, he states that “requiring ‘COVID-19 passports’ to participate in daily life – such as working, attending school or sporting events, attending a restaurant or going to the movies – would create two classes of citizens. . vaccination-based. “
Many locals wrote to Berschauer and Starrett this week, asking them to stop comparing public health measures to US Jim Crow laws that oppressed African Americans or the genocide facing Jews and other minorities in Nazi Germany. .
They noted that forcing people who have not been vaccinated against COVID-19 to wear masks is aimed at stopping the spread of the disease and that customers are free to refuse to show their vaccination card and simply wear a mask instead. . Businesses are also free to continue to require all customers to wear a mask.
“It is reprehensible for county officials to compare mask warrants and vaccination cards to Jim Crow laws. As you may know, Jim Crow is referring to the legalized oppression of blacks following the abolition of slavery, ”wrote Leslie Ballan, a resident of McMinnville. “A more appropriate comparison would be seat belt laws and helmet laws to promote public safety. You may not want to wear them, but it is the law that protects you from yourself. Please stop turning science-based public health efforts into your personal victim status. It is offensive!
Samantha Wikstrom of Newberg wrote: “You are not economically disadvantaged because you choose not to vaccinate. You don’t have to send your kids to lower schools because you choose not to vaccinate. You are not sent to gas chambers. You are just asked to wear a mask. … Comparing vaccination passports to being put in a Soviet labor camp (“Welcome to the Gulag,” Facebook Starrett, May 18) is ludicrous. People are in a labor camp because they need to show their immunization status to attend a Trail Blazers game without a mask ?? The dramatic language does not help Yamhill County. We are continually divided by this kind of rhetoric, at a time when we might come together.
Wikstrom wrote: “We are not driven by research, science or public health. We are driven by conspiracy theories, ignorance and division. “
Berchauer responded to several of the letter’s authors, stating that “the enforced segregation of our residents based on their individual medical choices or circumstances will never be tolerated in this county as long as I am a commissioner.”
In a discussion with reporters from across the state on Tuesday, which included a discussion of the Yamhill County approach, professors at Oregon State University noted that Americans are already used to provide personal data for activities such as obtaining a passport, purchasing alcohol or tobacco or obtaining a bracelet. identifying them as the legal drinking age at festivals and other events where alcohol is served. Public schools also require proof of vaccination against a range of childhood illnesses, for attendance.
“We are already doing this,” said assistant professor of commerce Aimee Huff.
OSU professor Chi Chinhuei, director of the Center for Global Health, and Brett Tyler, director of the Center for Genome Research and Biocomputing, said there is still a significant risk of contracting COVID-19 for unvaccinated people. .
Noting that the B.1.1.7 variant which is currently the most dominant in Oregon is twice as contagious as the original strain, Chinhuei told reporters, “I’m really concerned about the. mask.
Tyler confirmed, telling reporters that the B.1.1.7 variant has spread rapidly and is now found in the wastewater of 92% of counties in Oregon.
“We have seen that going from almost zero to 50% in two months, I think there is a very significant risk for people who are not vaccinated and who take off their masks,” Tyler said.
He said another concern is that the United States is putting in place the conditions for the development of variants.
“When you have a mixed population, where some people are vaccinated and some are unvaccinated, you end up creating a situation where the virus becomes resistant to the vaccines,” Tyler said.
Chinhuei said another concern is that vaccine cards are forged and the cards show dates of birth. He said he thinks it would be best if the Federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention created a digital card that people could display on their phones, which eliminates date of birth information.
“It should be a safer thing that can better protect our privacy,” Chinhuei said.
Statewide there were 199,784 cases and 2,639 deaths as of Wednesday. Nationwide, there have been 33.1 million confirmed cases and 592,501 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.
The second county resolution, introduced by Berschauer, is presented as a protection of civil rights. He invokes the Americans with Disabilities Act and the state constitution prohibitions against discrimination based on religion or age.
He claims that “immunization status is inextricably linked with other protected classes including, but not limited to, disability, religion, race, ethnicity and military service” and that “residents and Yamhill County employees should not have their civil rights violated due to a statewide temporary emergency order. “
The resolution also takes a stand against employers who impose vaccination as a condition of employment and against bullying in the workplace based on vaccination or wearing masks.
Berschauer said she thought it was important because “businesses have resources; chambers and others ask them to ask for their own lawyer. How many small businesses do you know that have legal counsel on their speed dial? Not a lot. Most of our small mom and pop businesses don’t have access to it. … ”
Kulla said: “I don’t want this to be a document that someone has and says look, here’s my legal opinion,” and county legal counsel Christian Boenisch agreed, telling the commissioners: “I just want to make sure everyone is clear; it is not legal advice. We cannot provide legal advice to citizens. Typically, this information is provided for informational purposes only and if anyone has any questions about the laws or legality of any of these areas, they should seek their own legal advice. “
Starrett and Berschauer then said they didn’t provide legal advice, but Kulla argued that people felt or looked like legal advice from elected officials.
Starrett said she didn’t agree.