JEFFERSON COUNTY, OR – An Oregon County has declared a state of emergency due to the pending loss of workers over the COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

Jefferson County Commissioners said this week that there is a “foreseeable lack of resources” expected due to Governor Kate Brown’s mandate of the vaccine. The commissioners have asked the governor to reconsider and recall her mandate, requiring many workers to receive the vaccine by October 18 or face termination.


Commission Chair Kelly Simmelink signed a resolution from her and the other commissioners, Wayne Fording and Mae Huston, to the governor saying that COVID-19 “has exhausted many providers of core public services” and that the Delta variant “has further strained the delivery of those public services and has filled regional hospitals with COVID-19 patients.”

The resolution continued, “The Board of Commissioners requests that the state of Oregon immediately withdraw its vaccine mandate to prevent further exhaustion and departure of providers of core public services, including first responders, health care providers, educators, and related staff, emergency service providers and public safety providers, that are essential for the safety and well-being of Oregonians living in, visiting and traveling through Jefferson County.”

Simmelink also said that many workers in different lines of work “have left or are expected to leave employment, rather than receive the COVID-19 vaccine.”

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To News21, Simmelink also said, “The intent of this Emergency Declaration is to be preemptive in what we foresee as upcoming emergency due to lack of resources. Our jail staff is at about 40% vaccinated, while Fire and EMS have a large group of unvaccinated staff. It is our understanding that nearly 20% of the St. Charles Health System still is unvaccinated.

“By doing this declaration, we are setting the stage for requesting state and/or federal assistance to assist local resources and capabilities. In rural counties all over the state, we are faced with the possibility of not being able to provide adequate Public Safety service.  We do not want to lose any of our service providers, and it is extremely hard to find replacements in rural Oregon should there be no alternatives.”


Simmelink concluded, “We join other rural counties in expressing our concern for the foreseeable public emergency in our county.  By alerting the governor of our situation, it is our hope that we can work together to find solutions that can keep our service providers at full capacity.”

According to The Madras Pioneer, the St. Charles Madras hospital recently called in the National Guard to assist with daily operations due to a significant staffing shortage.

This piece was written by Leah Anaya on September 16, 2021. It originally appeared in and is used by permission.

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