Klickitat County Commissioners admonished Washington Gov. Jay Inslee over his administration’s vaccine mandates for state and health care workers earlier this month.
In a letter signed by the three commissioners and sent to Inslee’s office, the commissioners voiced “frustration and disappointment” over the emergency orders that have been in place since last April, as well as recent vaccine mandates order by Inslee.
The vaccine mandate, signed earlier this month, requires all state employees, higher education, childcare, and K-12 education employees, as well as most health and long-term care providers to become fully vaccinated by Oct. 18. The governor employed the mandate on the grounds of the state of emergency declared last February.
County commissioners said they have “major issues” with the mandates employed by Inslee. In the letter they describe frustration over the unilateral move by Inslee to employ the mandate, taking local government out of the decision making.
“…Not allowing our health care workers and those in our medical facilities to choose whether to be vaccinated is taking away their freedom of personal choice when it comes to their health care decisions,” they said in the letter. “It (the vaccine mandate) will likely decrease our capacity to respond to this epidemic as people unwilling to be vaccinated quit.”
County commissioners said in the letter that health care workers have demonstrated over the past year they are able to do their jobs “and contend with the virus in a safe manner.”
They later said in the letter that “vaccines have not proven to be 100% effective and by mandating them, you are fueling the frustration and anger we are facing.
“As far as we can tell, there is no public plan to the ending of the state of emergency or goals set forth to achieve this end of this situation,” they said. “The lack of hope leads to a feeling of a lack of respect for our authority and duties which we want to carry out and be a part of the solution.”
The same day the letter was signed, protesters voicing opposition to Inslee’s emergency proclamations attended the public commenting portion of the weekly commission meeting.
Their lack of masks prompted Commission Chair Dave Sauter to pause the meeting after requesting the protesters wear their masks, which the refused to do.
A series of videos posted on the “Goldendale Freedom Fighters” YouTube channel shows the interactions between commissioners and protesters. The official recording by the county does not show the public commenting portion of the meeting.
In a tense back and forth between various protesters and the commissioners, Sauter, while explaining why the protesters were required to wear their masks in a public meeting, was interrupted by various protesters alleging he was “violating your oath of office” by not allowing the protesters to speak on their issue. Sauter responded that citizens have the opportunity to air their grievances by following the rules, which according to an executive order, requires masks in public buildings.
Protesters voiced their concern that commissioners were not upholding the constitution, and were not using the powers they have to fight what they considered an “illegal mandate.”
“Don’t be afraid of Inslee or any other slack-jawed politician up there,” one protester said.
Sauter left the room, while Commissioner Dan Christopher attempted to explain why people are required to wear a mask during the meeting. Christopher told the group that the governor’s emergency proclamation had been upheld in court in previous challenges.
After Sauter returned to the room, Sheriff Bob Songer spoke to the commission, arguing that the governor’s emergency proclamation was “a bad law. Unenforceable.”
Songer, who recently recovered from a COVID-19 illness, was not wearing a mask in the chamber.
Commissioner Jacob Anderson said not enforcing the mask mandate could open the county up to “legal jeopardy.
“The vaccine has helped people,” Anderson later said.