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Various COVID Concerns Raised At Supervisors Meeting

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Sonora, CA — There was no item on the agenda related to COVID-19 at today’s Tuolumne County Board of Supervisors meeting, but it was the main focus of discussion during the first hour.

We reported last week that a majority of the board of supervisors are in favor of giving county workers the option of getting the COVID vaccine or having to test weekly. A future discussion, and vote, is likely in the coming weeks.

Members of the public always have the option of speaking on matters not on the current agenda at the start of each board meeting. Today about 10 people came up to voice concerns against any type of vaccine mandate. They made several arguments including the need for healthy lifestyles and strong immune systems, rather than the COVID vaccine. Claims were also made that a mandate goes against the US Constitution, that vaccines hurt the immune system, people should have the freedom to choose, there are too many safety unknowns, those who already had COVID have protection, and that masks are ineffective and have negative impacts.

Upon hearing the various claims, Board Chair Ryan Campbell requested the Tuolumne County Public Health Department address some of the concerns brought up during the time designated for staff reports, immediately following public comments.

Tuolumne County Health Director Michelle Jachetta stated that the county has a 14-day daily case rate of 48 per 100,000 residents. She said it is “double the statewide average.”

Jachetta noted, “This rise in case rate is impacting our healthcare system. As of yesterday afternoon, there were 21 Tuolumne County residents hospitalized (with COVID). This is the most we have seen locally through the pandemic.

Adding, “Over the weekend Adventist Health Sonora had up to 23 COVID patients, with four in the ICU, and none of those individuals were vaccinated.”

She said about 1/3 of Adventist Health Sonora beds are now being utilized by COVID patients, and it is putting a strain on the local healthcare system.

After Jachetta’s statements, Supervisor Anaiah Kirk took issue with Campbell requesting Jachetta speak, since a COVID report was not planned.

Kirk argued, “I don’t understand why we are discussing an item that’s not on the agenda. I think our job as a board is to listen to what the community said.”

Campbell indicated he took issue with Kirk’s concerns. He said Tuolumne County’s case rate has unfortunately been number one in the entire state in recent days, and said he had questions for public health staff. Kirk felt it was not appropriate to have the staff talk at length about COVID since it wasn’t on the agenda.

Jachetta indicated after the meeting she was planning to deliver the information during the staff report section anyway, whether or not it was requested by a board member.

At last week’s meeting it was clear that supervisors Campbell, Jaron Brandon and David Goldemberg are open to a future vaccine directive for county workers, while board members Kirk and Kathleen Haff are against it.