RIO GRANDE COUNTY — Rio Grande County Social Services Director Jody Kern opened a discussion with Rio Grande County Commissioners on Sept. 29 to talk about the pending COVID-19 vaccines mandate enacted by President Joe Biden.
Kern voiced her concern about the coming deadline and expressed her fear that several essential employees of the County would leave if forced to take the COVID vaccine.
Private and federal entities throughout the country are coming to grips with this mandate and as officials await the final guidelines from OSHA, many are preparing for the possibility of a decline in employees who do not want or cannot take the offered vaccine. The mandate will require businesses, federal or governmental agencies, and subcontractors with 100 or more employees to force vaccination or require weekly testing options for all employees. OSHA is working out guidelines to provide employers and agencies with more information in the coming weeks.
“I sent you all the information I have on the vaccine mandates and how they are going to push it. I know earlier this month you said you were not going to push the vaccine on County employees but my biggest concern is that they will do anything to push my funding and I guess we will have to tackle that if it comes to it,” said Kern.
On Sept. 20, Rio Grande County Commissioners signed a resolution defining their stance on vaccine and mask mandates within the county and voiced strong opinions on the matter, stating that they would not allow mandates within the county of any kind for as long as they could help it. The resolution was signed the following day.
“If they do do anything with the funding, we will have a major eruption across the state. I am not sure how many counties have passed resolutions voting against the mandates but I know it is a lot,” said Chairman Gene Glover.
According to Rio Grande County Attorney Nancy Lake, Colorado is not one of the 26 OSHA states and cannot mandate vaccines.
“We are not one of the 26 OSHA states, OSHA is what the federal government is relying on to bring in this mandate and we are not one of those states. At this point in time, the state cannot mandate the vaccines because of that. They would have to make many significant changes and I don’t think they would have the support to do it,” Lake said.
Lake added that the push back against the mandate just in the state alone has been overwhelming.
“I alone have received 14 different requests from 14 different counties across the state wanting to see our resolution against the mandates and I say we hold out as long as we possibly can,” Lake said.
Kern agreed with Lake.
“If we can hold off and not do it, I think the better off we will be. I will tell you, and I have made this known to the state as well, I do not think that our communities are made safer by indoctrinating workers versus having no workforce,” Kern said. “I have been told my employees will walk and there are some in very critical positions. For that reason and the more this is being pushed, they have lost their chance in getting the few people who may have gotten the vaccine who will absolutely not now.”
Commissioners reiterated their stance on the vaccine mandate and stated that they will hold out as long as they can from requiring employees of the County to be vaccinated in any department.