The Clatsop County Board of Commissioners has called on Gov. Kate Brown to end a policy requiring businesses and churches to verify coronavirus vaccination status before allowing people to take off their masks.
In a letter to the governor on Thursday, commissioners said the mandate places an unfair responsibility and burden on businesses and churches.
“The notion of a ‘vaccine passport’ is not included in the federal guidance,” the letter said. “Requiring this type of validation process creates risk, liability and expense to businesses and churches. Placing the burden of verification on businesses and churches already reeling from the devastating affects of COVID is unreasonable, unnecessary and prone to conflict.”
Major retail groups and political opponents have challenged Brown over the policy, including state House Republicans. They argue that the rule violates privacy and personal choice.
Warrenton Mayor Henry Balensifer has also been publicly critical of the requirement.
Commissioner Mark Kujala, the board’s chairman, shared the county’s letter in a Facebook post saying the board stands in solidarity with businesses in Clatsop County.
“They don’t need to be the vaccine police, it’s time for some individual responsibility,” Kujala said.
Commissioner Courtney Bangs shared a similar sentiment with constituents.
“I am so proud of my fellow commissioners and I for standing up for our businesses and churches in our community,” Bangs wrote in a Facebook post. “No business or church should ever have to be put in a potentially confrontational position of policing a mandate that even our president doesn’t stand behind. Nor should they be faced with stringent punitive measures that could potentially put them out of business.
“It’s time for individual responsibility, it’s time for the chains to be removed, it’s time for us to join our neighboring states and the majority of our nation. We stand in solidarity with our Clatsop County businesses and churches.”
Brown stood by her guidance during a Friday press conference. She said it gives businesses a choice for a very short period of time while the state nears its goal of administering at least one dose of the vaccine to 70% of Oregonians.
The governor said she anticipates reaching that target before the end of June, at which point she will lift mask and social distancing requirements and risk level restrictions.
“I want to be very clear that we are able to reopen like this because of the efficacy of the vaccines,” Brown said. “For those of you who are vaccinated, you’ve helped us reach this point and you are protected from this virus. However, there are still Oregonians who need to take extra precautions to feel safe and to stay safe.
“When we cross the 70% threshold, it doesn’t mean we are stopping our vaccine rollout. Quite the contrary. It means we have more hard work in front of us to vaccinate the next 10% and more of Oregonians. It means we must double down to keep reaching every community with information and vaccines.”
The governor and Patrick Allen, the director of the Oregon Health Authority, described what they called two pandemics.
“As we begin the month of June, we’re nearly six months into Oregon’s COVID-19 vaccination drive,” Allen said. “It’s been close to six weeks since we expanded eligibility to all adults on April 19. During these past few months, we’ve seen the virus come roaring back and then begin to retreat. In that time, a stark picture has emerged. There isn’t one pandemic in Oregon. There are two. One is a pandemic that is dying out among people who are vaccinated, and the other is a pandemic that is raging as fiercely as ever among people who are unvaccinated.
“The data clearly show that if you are fully vaccinated, you can begin to put the pandemic behind you.”
Allen cited Clatsop County with having a high vaccination rate and low case rate.
The county has vaccinated more than 60% of residents 16 and older, according to the health authority, and moved into lower risk for the virus on Friday.
The county has set a goal of vaccinating 27,533 people — or 70% of the population — against the virus to try to reach herd immunity. As of Friday, 17,270 people were fully vaccinated.
The county has recorded 1,011 virus cases since the pandemic began. According to the county, 25 were hospitalized and eight have died.