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September 30th Due Date for Mandated Vaccines Looming Over Regional Workforce

By Raina Lucero

2021-09-29 16:21:07

The regularly scheduled meeting for the Kiowa County Commissioners will be held this Thursday, September 30 at 9 AM.  We have learned from the Kiowa County Administrator, Tina Adamson, that the last item one the agenda for this meeting will be a vaccine mandate resolution.

According to Adamson, this resolution was drafted by the County attorney, and is similar to resolutions that have been brought to the commissioner’s meetings of several other surrounding counties in the region.

Adamson also pointed out that, “It is my understanding that the Board of Commissioners cannot "protect" any healthcare, state or federal worker.  They can only protect county employment positions.  This resolution is in support of the workers who are required to comply with the State and Federal mandates in order to keep their jobs.  County government CANNOT tell the healthcare facilities that they do not have to abide by state and federal laws or mandates, that itself would be an overstep of government powers.  This resolution will show the State regulators that, at the County level, the Commissioners support the County residents’ choice to be vaccinated or not.”

The Kiowa County proposed resolution will come just days after Baca County signed their own resolution, Resolution 2021-13, A Resolution Concerning Vaccine Mandates.  Which states in part, “WHEREAS, Baca County does not have the resources to enforce State and Federal Mandates and does not intend to use its very limited resources to enforce any vaccine mandates issued by either the State of Colorado or the United States Federal government and would encourage all elected officials to refuse to require or enforce the same. “

Bent County held their regularly scheduled meeting last week and on their agenda was a group of individuals who had revised and drafted their own resolution, A RESOLUTION OPPOSING COLORADO HEALTH DEPARTMENT MANDATES AND BENT COUNTY HEALTH DEPARTMENT MANDATES REQUIRING INDIVIDUALS TO BE VACCINATED FOR COVID-19 AND THE REQUIREMENT TO WEAR MAKS IN CERTAIN SITUATIONS.

Their resolution states in part, “WHEREAS, the COVID-19 mandates will create a two-tiered society, commonly known as a caste system, which is a type of social structure which divides people based on inherited social and economic status, and in this matter of the COVID-19 virus, the masked and the unmasked; the vaccinated and unvaccinated;”

Bent County resident Jaxon Meardon, who was at the Bent County Commissioners Meeting and read the resolution aloud in asking the Commissioners to adopt and sign says this when asked what his motivation was to join this fight for their County, “It's inevitable that my wife's job as a teacher is in jeopardy and it is going to just trickle down to normal everyday folks if we don't draw a line in the sand right now. I understand how hard it would be to risk losing state and federal funding, but at some point, you must sacrifice something if you want to keep living in a free society.”

As of Monday September 27, Bent County has not approved or adopted this resolution as in their meeting there was much worry from the Commissioners as to how they would handle the state withholding funds for the various programs that it helps fund.  They will meet again this Thursday and perhaps we will know more then if this resolution will be passed or will die on their desks.

While these resolutions may not protect any healthcare worker, it may serve as a first line of offense for groups who can then take these signed and adopted resolutions to their hospital boards and ask for the same resolutions be adopted by them.

Only then will the healthcare be protected against these federal and state mandates that are handed down to our rural communities. 

Kiowa County Hospital District CEO Char Korrell has answered several questions as to the mandate and what future may await the staff at our local healthcare facilities. Korrell states that 52% of the hospital staff is vaccinated and that as of now there has only been one employee quit due to the daily testing requirement for any unvaccinated employee. 

Korrell was also asked about the board policy and if it states that they will fire anyone who is not vaccinated and who does not have an exemption.  We also asked if the hospital district will fire them the morning of October 1 by handing them paperwork stating as much.  Her response was, “All employees have been given the policy.  The policy states that first dose must have been received or exemption filed.  If neither has been completed the employees will be taken off the schedule until they are compliant.”

When asked, “Since you are funded by taxpayer money to some extent, what will happen if you cannot provide healthcare to this community as far as your responsibility to the taxpayers?” Korrell’s response was, “The decision won’t be made directly by me.  If we have employees who refuse to follow the policy and quit, and we are unable to find travelers to cover open shifts we would be forced to move patients to facilities who have staffing.”

The Independent has spoken to many local healthcare workers who have turned in exemptions and have yet to hear if they have been approved or denied.  With the October 1 date to be vaccinated or terminated looming over their heads this week it is undeniable that many of our local heroes are living in a state of fear.

Fear that they will not be able to provide for their families, make their car, or mortgage payments, or even get unemployment as it is unknown if the unvaccinated healthcare workers will be approved if, they are in fact terminated.

As of the writing of this article we know that Kit Carson County Memorial Hospital in Burlington, CO has closed its OB Department and no babies will be delivered at their facility due to employees refusing to be vaccinated. 

Arkansas Valley Regional Medical Center in La Junta, CO has closed its Intensive Care Unit and the major ambulance transport service AMR, which is in La Junta, is facing staffing shortages which may result in no longer having the ability to transport patients to the city. 

We have heard stories from several healthcare workers in our region who have just recently found that their exemptions have been denied.  It appears that neither the medical or religious exemption has been accepted at some facilities which leaves many employees wondering if the facilities will uphold the federal mandate or if the employees who are standing up for their right to choose will be collateral damage just one year after being touted the heroes of COVID-19. 

When asked why not just get the vaccine one provider had this to say, “How can my patients expect me to advocate for them if I cannot even advocate for myself?”

A local, seasoned healthcare worker who would like to remain nameless out of fear of retaliation believes that “this mandate will cost more rural American lives than COVID ever could.” With services being lost and the potential closure of some facilities all together it is not foolish to imagine that this statement may have some bearing. 

As we look to our regional neighbors and see the action that is being taken it is important that we also look more closely to our local leaders to ensure that our freedoms, for every citizen no matter their opinions on the vaccine, are being protected and our constitutional rights are being upheld, as after all they have all taken an oath to do so.

 

Update:

On the evening of Monday September 27, after Kiowa County Independent had already gone to press, we received news that the Otero County Board of Commissioners had adopted and signed a resolution titled, A Resolution Opposing Colorado Health Department Mandates Requiring Individuals to Be Vaccinated for COVID-19 and Requiring Individuals to Wear Masks in Certain Situations. 

 

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