The Prineville City Council has taken an official stance against a state mandate requiring COVID vaccination as a condition of employment in Oregon.
Tuesday evening, the seven-member body considered a resolution "urging the Oregon Legislature and governor to take actions to protect Oregonians' right to make their own health and medical decisions." The resolution was brought to Mayor Jason Beebe by a group of citizens who asked him to bring forth the resolution for a council vote.
In August, Gov. Kate Brown mandated that by Oct. 18, all executive branch employees of the State of Oregon must be vaccinated. This includes employees in public safety, corrections and health care settings who are employed by the state. In addition, public school staff, teachers and volunteers are required to be vaccinated.
Then, earlier this month, President Joe Biden announced a requirement by Oct. 18 that employers with 100 or more employees mandate vaccination or weekly COVID testing for employment. In addition, he mandated that most federal employees and federal contractors as well as health care workers get vaccinated.
Proponents of the city resolution advocated Tuesday night for its passage, telling city councilors that they are not against vaccination but want people to have the right to make that decision without coercion or threat of penalty. People also expressed frustration about the ongoing mask mandates and mixed messages they have received about COVID-19 and vaccines from mainstream media, health care workers and other officials.
After introducing the resolution and explaining its intent, Beebe invited each of the council members to provide their input. The three councilors who attended the meeting in person -- Gail Merritt, Jeff Papke and Ray Law â€“ supported the resolution. They agreed that people should have a choice when it comes to medical decisions and treatments.
Councilors Steve Uffelman and Patricia Jungmann, who attended the meeting by phone, also agreed that people should have the freedom to make their own medical decisions. However, they both argued that people still have those freedoms in spite of the new mandates. They acknowledged that medical decisions regarding a COVID vaccine could adversely affect their employment but stressed that the freedom to make their own medical choices remained.
The two councilors therefore concluded that the resolution doesn't change anything but rather serves as official opposition to the vaccine mandates.
In response, Beebe agreed that the resolution doesn't change anything, but said it is intended to let the state government know where city leaders stand. He went on to point out that the freedom to not take the vaccine meant people would have to leave their job, or even a career in which they had invested decades. The mandate therefore forces people into making a medical decision with which they don't agree.
Councilor Janet Hutchison, who also attended the meeting by phone, chose not to comment on the resolution, concluding that she had nothing to add to the conversation that hadn't already been stated.
Councilors ultimately voted in favor of the resolution by a five-to-one margin with one abstention. Hutchison voted against the resolution and Jungmann abstained, citing a conflict of interest because she is a pharmacist at a location providing the COVID-19 vaccine.
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