Hundreds of local residents turned out at the Clackamas County Board of Commissioners’ regular business meeting Thursday night to protest the governor’s new statewide indoor mask mandate set to take effect the following day, plus other measures that have been taken or proposed to beat back the latest surge in Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations.
While a standing-room-only crowd was allowed to attend the meeting in person (it was also live-streamed on YouTube and Zoom), a large group was left outside — unable to get in due to capacity limits imposed by the fire marshal.
Tensions rose occasionally as the group outside held signs, chanted and sweat in the afternoon heat.
Things were no less heated inside the crowded hearing room, where Chair Tootie Smith began by reading a prepared statement that was, at times, sharply critical of Governor Kate Brown.
“This week, Governor Brown issued a mask mandate to all indoor buildings, yet said local authorities would not be charged with enforcement. My question to her is this: If it’s not enforced, how is it a mandate?” Smith asked, to raucous applause.
Smith said in no uncertain terms that she does not support the governor’s mandates and that the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office would not enforce any public health declarations.
Instead, Smith maintained, the county would continue to provide education, personal protective equipment, vaccinations, incentives and transportation to vaccination clinics — which she said Clackamas has done better than many Oregon counties.
“It is the role of government to help and support the citizens it represents,” Smith said. “Not to control or force policies on them. Let me be clear: Mandates are not acceptable. All medical treatments are to be voluntary and not coerced.”
Smith claimed mandates are counterproductive to the ultimate goal of “good health” for all Americans because they encourage resistance.
“Vaccine and mask mandates are wrong and fail to improve public health,” she said. “Government officials are as only good as their word.”
Brown “lied,” Smith said, when she gave local authorities control over public health decisions on June 30 — only to take it back barely a month later.
“She has panicked, realizing her management of this situation has failed,” Smith said. “Oregon has received hundreds of millions of dollars for the management of Covid. She cries about hospital capacity. So, increase the hospital capacity with the money given to our state by the federal government.”
Smith went on to state that control over these issues should be left up to local jurisdictions and their elected leaders — the “people living in the trenches of life” — in order to maintain order and peace.
“We have endured lockdowns, mandates and failed promises for 18 months,” she said. “Our citizens have the right to make their own choices regarding their own health. Let me repeat: our civil liberties and freedoms are at stake.”
The citizens were with her. Dozens requested the chance to be heard — each one given just one minute to speak due to the high turnout.
Many aired their grievances over the vaccine mandates for certain workers and the mask rule for schools. They said it should be a person’s choice to get vaccinated — not the state or governor.
“I have friends who are in danger of losing their jobs because of these mandates,” said Dana Leischner, a resident of North Maple Street in Canby. “We all know by now that we must respect this virus. As citizens in a free society, it is incumbent upon us to be diligent.”
Her teenage son Joseph said he does not plan to take the vaccine and shouldn’t be denied the chance to work or go to school because of his choice.
“Forced vaccination flies in the face of equality,” he said. “Many people do not want to get vaccinated. This will create an us vs. them situation. History tells us this does not end well. … Please don’t force me to take an untested drug that will impact my future.”
Brenda Ruble, of Lake Oswego, claimed Covid-19 is a “plandemic designed to destroy business and control your lives.”
“We are in a fight between good and evil,” said Ruble, who worked in alternative medicine for 25 years. “Revelations 18:23 says, ‘By your sorcery, all nations were deceived.’ In this instance, the word ‘sorcery’ in the original Greek text is pharmakeia, from which the word ‘pharmaceutical’ comes from.
“So if I take the word ‘pharmaceutical’ and put it in place of ‘sorcery,’ it reads, ‘By your pharmaceutical, all nations were deceived.’ Folks, you’ve been deceived. … I will not fear the delta variant when I’ve got the Alpha and Omega, and I suggest you get it, too.”
Carol Sadich, of West Linn, also said she worked in medicine and, indeed, pharmaceutical development.
“The masks do not work,” Sadich said. “The molecular size of the virus is small enough, it goes right through the mask. And kids wearing masks are like making a little petri dish for all the viruses.”
Scientific and medical evidence does support universal mask wearing in public spaces as an effective way to reduce transmission of airborne viruses.
Most masks are not designed or intended to block virus molecules themselves, but rather, the respiratory droplets in which they are carried (which are much larger).
Molalla resident Chelsea Wilson is one state worker who is considering leaving her job because of the governor’s latest mandate.
Wilson, who is six months pregnant, has worked during the pandemic to determine eligibility for assistance programs like SNAP and TANF.
“While I don’t feel comfortable obtaining a vaccine for myself and my unborn child,” Wilson said, “I’m forced to face some hard decisions … if I want to continue my employment or become one of those Oregonians I’ve been serving for the past 18 months.”
Smith and fellow Commissioner Mark Shull have been vocal in their opposition to the mask mandate and other coronavirus-related directives.
Smith said in a tweet that she “stands” with Marion and Polk counties, both of which passed resolutions against the new indoor mask mandate.
Nevertheless, the indoor mask mandate took effect Friday in Clackamas County.
The new mask mandate and required vaccinations for state workers were announced this week as the state grapples with a delta-fueled resurgence of Covid-19, one that had left a pandemic-high 733 Oregonians hospitalized as of Friday — 185 of them in intensive care.
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