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Protesters outside La Grande City Hall demonstrate against vaccine and mask mandates on Saturday, Aug. 28, 2021. The Union County Board of Commissioners passed a resolution on Wednesday, Sept. 1, opposing statewide vaccine mandates for certain workers. The resolution, however, does not provide a legal way for residents to avoid mandatory vaccination requirements.

LA GRANDE — The Union County Board of Commissioners passed a resolution on Wednesday, Sept. 1, protesting the statewide mandate requiring all teachers, school staff, school volunteers, health care workers and state employees to be vaccinated for COVID-19.

The resolution, passed on a 3-0 vote, contended that the decision to get vaccinated for COVID-19 is an individual one.

“It should be a personal choice between each person and their physician,” said Union County Commissioner Donna Beverage.

The resolution stated that denying personal choice on the matter shows a lack of trust: “Be it further resolved that the Union County Board of Commissioners considers it an invasion of privacy, places undue burden, and shows an inherent distrust in the ability of individuals to make decisions for themselves regarding bodily autonomy.”

Beverage said she strongly endorses the resolution.

“I believe it is a good resolution. We need to protect our freedom. I am all for it,” she said.

According to Commissioner Matt Scarfo, the public outcry over the past month had a major impact on the board’s decision. Scarfo said he has received a high volume of objections from state employees, health care workers and education workers.

“It’s about the impact it will have on our staffing,” he said of the board’s opposition to the mandate.

Scarfo noted that staffing across these sectors is already tight due to COVID-19 and that the vaccine requirement could have far-reaching consequences. He mentioned that the staff at Grande Ronde Hospital and other health care employees are worn-out and already dealing with short staffing.

“Our health care workers should be getting raises after all they’ve been through, not being fired or forced to quit,” Scarfo said.

The mandate the resolution opposes requires all educators, staff and volunteers in schools for students in kindergarten through 12th grade, health care workers and state employees be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 by Oct. 18.

In the resolution, the Union County commissioners stated that this mandate will do more harm than good.

“A mandate will not result in significantly more vaccinated health care workers, public employees and educators,” the resolutions reads, but will possibly cause local workers to move to other states or leave their professions. “The decision to mandate vaccines will put our rural health, public service and education systems at risk by a loss of experienced employees, while potentially being counterproductive to increasing vaccination rates.”

One of the resolution’s concluding paragraphs stated that the Union County Board of Commissioners has been and will continue to be supportive of taking a variety of steps to slow the spread of COVID-19 to keep everyone safe and healthy and “to thoughtfully keep Union County open for business and our schools open for our students.”

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Dick Mason is a reporter with The Observer primarily covering the communities of North Powder, Imbler, Island City and Union, education, Union County veterans programs and local history. Dick joined The Observer in 1983, first working as a sports and outdoors reporter.

General assignment reporter

Beats include the communities of North Powder, Imbler, Island City and Union, education, Union County veterans programs and local history. Dick joined The Observer in 1983, first working as a sports and outdoors reporter.

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