Commissioners spar with Park & Rec over vaccine checks
Marking the latest conflict in an ongoing crusade against COVID-19-related restrictions and measures, Yamhill County Commissioner Lindsay Berschauer — with the support of fellow comissioner Mary Starrett — called out the Chehalem Park & Recreation District on May 27 for what she characterized as the use of "vaccine passports" at their facilities.
Starrett previously called vaccine verification "Jim Crow 2.0," comparing the practice of checking a vaccination card to the laws that enforced racial segregation in the South until 1965.
"I was told tonight by CPRD staff that they are doing vax checks at the Aquatic Center and any indoor facility," Berschauer wrote in a Facebook post. "I told them that their county commissioners just voted unanimously to oppose vaccine checks because they violate your medical privacy rights. They didn't care, they claim they are required to check. There is no requirement for vaccine checks in Oregon."
Berschauer's claims are false. In reality, CPRD is requiring proof of vaccination specifically for those who consent to the checks and wish to go without a face covering in the aquatic and fitness center; the measures follow public health guidance from the Oregon Health Authority, OSHA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). They are required to do so at their facilities in order to allow patrons to not wear a mask indoors.
"According to the state of Oregon, Oregon Health Department, Yamhill County Health Department and OSHA, individuals who are fully vaccinated with proof of vaccination status are not required to wear a mask, face covering or face shield, or maintain physical distancing in the Aquatic Center as of May 18, 2021," CPRD spokeswoman Kat Ricker said in an email. "To allow patrons to visit the aquatic center without a mask, staff are required to have a policy for checking proof of vaccination status of individuals, request proof of vaccination status from each individual, (and) review each individual's proof of vaccination prior to entry or admission."
Vaccine opponents in Congress like Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, among many other conservatives in state and local jurisdictions throughout the country, have claimed that vaccine checks are a HIPAA violation. But HIPAA only prevents health care professionals from disclosing private health information without the patient's permission. HIPAA is not in play in this scenario because the vaccine status of CPRD's patrons is not made public following the checks and CPRD is not a health care provider.
CPRD checking vaccination status follows along with the legally vetted public health guidance from state health officials, Ricker said.
"CPRD is not denying access to the aquatic center if vaccination status of a patron is not presented; patrons are simply given the choice to wear a mask while visiting the facility," Ricker wrote. "CPRD is grateful to be open to the community at this time. CPRD has worked hard to prepare our facilities for use by complying with state guidelines set forth by the state. The process of reopening (and remaining open) with the change in risk levels per county has been an exhaustive task. It is also important to point out that Oregon OSHA allows staff in the workplace to go without a mask if they are able to provide proof of vaccination status."
While they have no power as county commissioners to enforce their desired changes on private businesses or semi-public entities like CPRD, Berschauer and Starrett did write a joint letter to Gov. Kate Brown — whose administration Berschauer previously has referred to as a "dictatorship" — on May 27.
Commissioner Casey Kulla initially signed onto the resolution as well, which Berschauer commended, but he backtracked by submitting a request to reconsider the letter at the June 3 meeting of commissioners. On Facebook, Berschauer blamed what she called "progressives" for Kulla's potential change of heart on the matter.
"As promised … the unanimously approved resolutions against Covid-19 vaccine passports and our letter to Governor Brown asking her to start easing restrictions and stop placing additional requirements on the backs of our businesses and employers," Berschauer wrote in a Facebook post sharing the letter to Brown. "I am proud of my colleague Commissioner Starrett for boldly fighting to protect our freedoms for so many years. I am also proud of Commissioner Kulla for expressing his views in support of vaccines in general but realizing that there is a point when certain mandates cross the line and threaten individual freedoms, and vaccine passports/check systems have crossed that line."
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