In spite of momentum, mandate petition appears stalled at the feet of Clark County councilors

As of Wednesday, more than 3,700 area residents have signed a petition asking the Clark County councilors to adopt a resolution prohibiting mask and vaccination mandates as well as any other COVID-related restrictions

A week after Clark County resident Rob Anderson introduced an online petition asking members of the Clark County Council to adopt a resolution prohibiting any mask and vaccination mandates or any other COVID-related restrictions, he and the petition’s growing supporters took their request directly to the councilors during Wednesday’s Clark County Board of Health meeting.

The governor’s mask and vaccine mandates have led to many protests and rallies around Clark County in recent months. File photo
The governor’s mask and vaccine mandates have led to many protests and rallies around Clark County in recent months. File photo

The councilors, who also serve as members of the Board of Health, heard an abundance of testimony from petitioners during the course of the meeting held in a virtual format and televised on Clark/Vancouver Television. Anderson, who was one of the first to address the councilors, reported that more than 3,700 area residents had signed the petition as of Wednesday morning. When he announced the effort one week earlier, he had just 100 signatures.

The impassioned pleas of the citizens went largely ignored by councilors Temple Lentz, Julie Olson, Gary Medvigy and Karen Bowerman. However, County Chair Eileen Quiring O’Brien did offer comments after the public testimony encouraging a discussion among the councilors about the issue. When contacted later in the day, Quiring O’Brien explained her position on the petition effort to Clark County Today.

Eileen Quiring
Eileen Quiring

“I consider myself a ‘representative’ of those who elected me,’’ Quiring O’Brien said. “With that in mind, I cannot ignore the petition.  The old saying ‘one hand can’t clap’ may be suitable for my situation on the Council.  I do not see any of my colleagues agreeing with my point of view. I am not anti-vaccine, but am for freedom of choice in this matter and believe wholeheartedly that the mandate is wrong. If I made a motion to pass a resolution to ban mandates for masks and vaccines, I wouldn’t be able to get a ‘second’ from any of my colleagues. Therefore, I can speak out, but that is probably the limit to my ability to act or get actions on the idea of banning the mandates.’’

Quiring O’Brien expressed her frustration that the issue of mandates has become such a polarized political issue.

“I believe that this whole issue has become so politicized that many are not hearing or reading a different point of view,’’ she wrote in a written response. “In fact, social media (and frankly other media) has banned other points of view and that is squelching free speech.  There are well informed physicians and credible evidence that people are being injured by the so-called vaccine. 

“I am very disturbed that the governor has mandated state workers to get the so-called vaccine, to wear masks and encouraging businesses to do the same,’’ Quiring O’Brien said. “People are losing their ability to support themselves and their families, children are being prohibited from participating in school in a normal way. Psychological damage is happening with children having to wear masks. In so many ways, this is madness!’’

In his testimony before the councilors Wednesday, Anderson reiterated the theme of discrimination that he used as the basis to justify the councilors adopting a resolution prohibiting the mandates.

“What we are seeing in Clark County and beyond is discrimination,’’ said Anderson, who pointed out that many employers were placing employees who refuse to be vaccinated on unpaid leave rather than terminating them. 

“Why? Because it’s discriminatory actions and they know it, and they’re trying to limit their liability,’’ Anderson said. “Students are being forced to mask even though zero children, zero teenagers have died from COVID in Clark County, zero. And you can’t say that you’re protecting children when they aren’t being harmed. But they are being harmed from these mandates sociologically, emotionally, intellectually, and sometimes even physically.

“You are conducted by the Home Rule Charter to conduct public hearings on matters of public concern, to assist in performing its legislative responsibilities,’’ Anderson added. “So, I really hope and pray that you listen to over 3,700 Clark County residents. This outcry from the public is just the beginning. The Republican Party, which most of you state you represent, has passed a resolution for you to speak and act vigorously against these discriminating mandates and ban them from this county. Will you have the courage to possibly set aside your own personal fears or concerns and listen to the people that have asked, you know, begged you to act? If you fail to do so today, I dare say that your political careers will be in serious jeopardy.’’

The overwhelming majority of those citizens who spoke at Wednesday’s meeting reiterated Anderson’s themes, adding their anecdotal evidence to support those themes. One speaker spoke in stark contrast to the supporters of the petition.

“I’m here in support of the mask mandate, and in support of vaccine requirements, in support of Governor Inslee, in support of (Clark County Public Health) Dr. (Alan) Melnick, and our county Board of Health who are doing everything they can to save us from becoming Idaho, South Dakota, Texas, or Florida,’’ Nancy Schultz said. “What I have heard here today is absolutely the usual tripe that you hear that you read on Facebook, you read in on the internet, when you search the site, and that’s where most of these people are getting their information, their law and their constitutional rights that they talk about … They don’t know what they’re talking about.

“The talking points are all the usual misinformation, disinformation that we read on the internet,’’ Schultz added. “And that’s where their talking points have come from. I get my information from the CDC, from the World Health Organization, from doctors and from good science, not from the internet. The unvaccinated are not being discriminated against. To use that word is insulting to people who have been activists in the Civil Rights movement and the Women’s Rights movement for more than a century. You are not being discriminated against. You are spoiled and you’re whiny. I just can’t believe the selfishness of what we’re listening to.’’

While other councilors expressed support during the meeting for the mandates and continued efforts to vaccinate the roughly 40 percent of Clark County citizens who remain unvaccinated, Quiring O’Brien expressed frustration that the group was not thinking of new ways to address the ongoing pandemic.

“Why are those that are already vaccinated so afraid of the unvaccinated if they believe the so-called vaccine is effective?,’’ Quiring O’Brien said. “All that we have done over the last nearly two years doesn’t seem to be working.  Why do we continue to do the same thing? It’s insanity!  Governor Inslee is clearly on a power trip and those in his leftist party are ‘all in.’’’

Clark County resident Margaret Tweet also testified at Wednesday’s Board of Health meeting, reminding the councilors of some of the county’s own COVID-19 statistics.

“These are Emergency Use Authorization products,’’ Tweet stated. “They’re currently in trial being tested on Clark County residents. And many residents don’t even realize that. I also wanted to state we have no deaths under 20 years old in Clark County, just one in the 20-to-29 year age range, and in the 30-to-39 age range, and 11 in the 40-to-49 age range (and) 34 deaths in the 50-to-59 age range. And, that’s for all deaths from March 2020 until today. So, the risk of harm from a COVID infection is minimal, or death in particular, is minimal for residents, young residents, those under 59 years old. And yet, Clark County Public Health is urging teenagers, young people, university students to get vaccinated and not informing them of the serious risks, such as Myocarditis, blood clots, strokes, heart attacks, heart conditions, miscarriages.’’

“You have a responsibility to inform the public of the serious risks to vaccination with these experimental products,’’ Tweet said. “At almost every public health meeting, I hear the public health director insist these products are safe and effective without any word about the risk. You have an obligation to inform the public of the serious risks, including death, from these products. How many people in Clark County, in Washington state, are suffering adverse effects? You don’t know and it’s never discussed in your public health meetings.’’

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