Estacada councilors debate COVID-19 vaccine statements
After noting that many people have asked for his opinion on the topic, Estacada Mayor Sean Drinkwine spoke out against COVID-19 mask and vaccination mandates at the close of a City Council meeting.
"I have always been a person that believes in your rights first, and I will always be that person," Drinkwine said during the meeting on Monday, Sept. 13. "I will never strip you of the right to freedom to make the choices that you make. That is not what I'm about, that's never going to be what I'm about, no matter what happens. So on that, I'm going to say that I do not support mandates for masks. I do not support mandates for vaccines. I do not support sending your kids to school for nine hours with a mask."
Drinkwine clarified that these are his personal opinions, and not those of other councilors or the city.
"I just want you to know that we are about the people first. Let's make sure we don't forget that," he added.
In August, Gov. Kate Brown reinstated Oregon's statewide mask mandate for both indoor and outdoor public spaces to help slow the spread of the delta variant of the coronavirus. Per guidance from the Oregon Department of Education, students, staff and visitors must wear face masks on school grounds.
Prior to Drinkwine's statement, Estacada resident Tony Long-Drew expressed concern about councilors making statements about the COVID-19 vaccine.
"I love our council men and women that serve our community very much, and as a community health provider, I'm really careful about what advice I give, even as a therapist in our area, especially to those that are not specifically my clients," he said. "I mention this because several times at the end of sessions, there have been council men and women giving advice (about) the vaccine, whether to get it or not, and almost borderline shaming those that chose an alternative."
Councilor Katy Dunsmuir noted that each member of the council receives time to speak at the end of their meetings, and statements made during this time reflect their personal views.
"I have never heard anyone on this board claim to be a doctor. I have heard several advise to call your doctor, and to seek out health advice from somebody other than Google or Facebook. Also to follow the guidelines that are being set forth by many health care providers, and that's so far the only advice that I've ever heard given is to call your medical professional," she said. "I think I know who you're referring to … I'm fine with it because I stand by every statement that I've ever made. And I will continue to give people the advice to call their doctor and get vaccinated to protect their lives."
During the City Council meeting on Monday, Aug. 23, Dunsmuir praised the full FDA approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, criticized the cancellation of a vaccination clinic in Molalla, encouraged people to talk to their doctor about the vaccine and encouraged elected leaders to use their platforms to support responsible medical information.
During councilor comments, members of the group expressed a variety of opinions on what should be said during that section of the meeting.
"I will sound like a broken record. Call your doctor. Don't talk to Google. Don't talk to Facebook. Don't say, 'I have talked to my doctor and he said this.' Talk to your doctor," Dunsmuir said. "Listen to the advice of the doctors. When you have a legal problem, call a lawyer. When you have a problem with your pet, call a vet. When you have a medical pandemic going on, call your doctor. Ask the questions, get answers, do your research, and call your doctor."
Councilor Jerry Tenbush agreed with Dunsmuir.
"Definitely call your doctor and find out what the right steps are for you. The majority of doctors are going to tell you that the vaccination is safe," he said. "The doctor is the one you trust with your personal health. Just call your doctor and follow their recommendations."
Councilor Joel Litkie expressed the importance of councilors being mindful of what they say during meetings.
"I believe it's important that we as community leaders take into consideration the things we say - personal opinions or soapbox or not at the end, it's important when we're sitting in this exact position at a city council meeting that everything we say be taken into account. What we say outside of a city council meeting in our own personal areas is up to us. But when we're sitting in a council meeting what we say is absolutely important because we're representing the city right now, and we have to take that professionalism into account," he said. "So yes, do call your doctor, but I believe that any mandate or pushing from any sort of shaming is absolutely wrong. And that I believe that it should be completely up to the person to choose."
Councilor Charity Hughes agreed with Litkie.
"The shaming has got to stop," she said. "We do not know what a person's personal health history is, so not everyone can get the vaccine, and I'm not going to go around and dig into everybody's personal health, and ask them why they have or have not gotten it. That's between them and their doctor, and I don't think it is up to us to get on here and start talking about what other cities are doing and expressing our strong opinions on this."
In other news from the Sept. 13 City Council meeting:
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