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Jefferson County commissioners declare state of emergency, call on state to scrap vaccine mandate

Jefferson County

(Update: Statement from Commission Chair Kelly Simmelink)

MADRAS, Ore. (KTVZ) – Jefferson County commissioners unanimously declared a state of emergency on Wednesday due to a “foreseeable lack of resources” to respond to basic needs and called on the state to immediately withdraw the vaccine before the Oct. 18 deadline to avoid a hit to “core public services.”

“The Board of Commissioners requests that the state of Oregon immediately withdraw its vaccine mandate to prevent further exhaustion and departure of providers of core public services, including first responders, health care providers, educators and related staff, emergency service providers and public safety providers, that are essential for the safety and well-being of Oregonians living in, visiting and traveling through Jefferson County,” the resolution concluded.

The emergency declaration signed by Commission Chair Kelly Simmelink and commissioners Wayne Fording and Mae Huston said the COVID-19 pandemic “has exhausted many providers of core public services,” and the recent surge in cases due to the Delta variant “has further strained the delivery of those public services and has filled regional hospitals with COVID-19 patients.”

Due to the mandate, some workers “have left or are expected to leave employment, rather than receive the COVID-19 vaccine,” they stated.

Simmelink told NewsChannel 21, "The intent of this Emergency Declaration is to be preemptive in what we foresee as upcoming emergency due to lack of resources.

"Our jail staff is at about 40% vaccinated while Fire and EMS have a large group of unvaccinated staff. It is our understanding that nearly 20% of the St. Charles Health System still is unvaccinated.

"By doing this declaration, we are setting the stage for requesting state and/or federal assistance to assist local resources and capabilities. In rural counties all over the state, we are faced with the possibility of not being able to provide adequate Public Safety service.  We do not want to lose any of our service providers, and it is extremely hard to find replacements in rural Oregon should there be no alternatives.

"We join other rural counties in expressing our concern for the foreseeable public emergency in our county.  By alerting the governor of our situation, it is our hope that we can work together to find solutions that can keep our service providers at full capacity," Simmelink concluded.

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