STOCKTON — Stating that showing proof of COVID-19 vaccinations is a violation of privacy and choice, and will hurt local businesses, the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors approved prohibiting vaccine passport mandates in the county on Tuesday by a vote of 4-0.
“I’m proud my office is presenting this,” chair Tom Patti said. “This is important. We have other counties keeping their eyes on us today to see what we are doing. We have other counties looking to impeach their supervisors because they are not taking care of their constituents. This is something we need to make a statement.”
In the resolution presented Tuesday, Patti said vaccine passports would reduce individual freedom and sacrifice patient privacy; would create a division among the populace; and would further erode public trust.
The resolution was brought to the board as the State of California is considering mandating proof of vaccinations to enter government buildings, businesses, hotels, bars and restaurants.
Proof of vaccinations, which have come to be known as “vaccine passports,” have already been mandated in the counties of San Francisco and Los Angeles.
Some 150 county residents, many of whom stated they were members of the San Joaquin County Liberty Coalition, applauded supervisors for adopting the resolution.
“The state is on the verge of taking choices away from me, my wife, my children,” Steve Colangelo said during the public comment portion of Tuesday’s meeting.
“They are completely taking away our health care choices,” he said. “Following their vaccine mandate announcement, Sacramento politicians began drafting legislation that would eliminate exemptions, eliminate options, and stepping on medical or religious liberties. We will not comply. It’s time to tell Sacramento politicians to back off ... and let our people make our own choices.”
Two weeks ago, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that all children ages 12 to 16 would be required to be vaccinated from COVID-19 to attend in-person instruction at schools, both public and private.
And while counties such as San Francisco and Los Angeles have implemented their own vaccine mandates, the state has not yet made vaccine passports a requirement.
However, the state has rolled out an electronic vaccine verification system in which residents can, if they choose, sign up to receive a digital record of their vaccination. They will also be provided a QR code that can be scanned if they are required to prove vaccination to enter a venue, business or country that requires it.
Mark Washburn, pastor at the Valley Bible Church on Davis Road, said requiring residents to show proof of vaccination was akin to something that might occur in 1939 Germany, not the 21st century in America or San Joaquin County.
“We are glad that you recognize we the people have the common sense to take care of ourselves,” he said. “While COVID is real, our church recognizes that everyone has a choice. When we have services, some wear masks, others don’t. Some are vaccinated, while others are not. All are welcome. None are penalized because this is about personal choice.”
Ashley Herzick, a Lodi Unified School District teacher, said vaccine mandates were only creating a sense of fear among residents, particularly when it comes to students.
She said she knows several students in her classes who are being “coerced” into getting vaccinated to participate in extracurricular clubs and athletic programs, and are also afraid of dying if they are not vaccinated.
“This is no longer about the virus, this is about the ability to control we the people,” she said. “People are more fearful than ever. What are the long-term effects of mandates imposed on a fear-driven society? We need to end mandates to begin healing society”
Deputy County Clerk Nicole Lee read just two letters to opposing the resolution.
“If some fools want to risk their lives and stay unvaccinated, that’s they’re choice,” Andrew Ashley wrote. “But the rest of us should not be forced to accommodate their suicidal foolishness, and public health and safety should not be sacrificed to feed their ignorant egos. Reject their whiny pleas that we all risk our lives so they can be public nuisances.”
Brian Jones wrote that personal freedoms do not give residents the right to spread the disease to other people.
“No one has the personal freedom to drive 100 miles per hour on the freeway or conduct target practice with a rifle in a county park,” he wrote. “That’s because it endangers others. Individual choice is important, but when it affects the lives and health and safety of a community, individual choice should not win out.”
The vaccine passport discussion followed a COVID-19 update from county health care services director Greg Diederich, who said if the state was still using its Blueprint for a Safer Economy tier system, San Joaquin County would still be in the most restrictive tier.
The county’s new COVID-19 case rate was 16.1 per 100,000 residents Tuesday, down from a high of 50.7 per 100,000 in August, he said. The test positivity rate was 4.5%, he said, which is still twice as high as the state’s rate.
San Joaquin County Public Health Services had not posted its Monday COVID-19 report as of Tuesday. However, its Friday report stated 58.5% of the eligible population was fully vaccinated.
Diederich on Tuesday said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that unvaccinated individuals are 7.1 times more likely to become infected with COVID-19 than a vaccinated person.
Supervisor Chuck Winn, who represents Ripon and Lodi on the board, said he understood that Diederich and other county health officials are not advocating for or against mandates, but simply providing information from the state and federal governments to the public.
Winn, however, did ask Diederich if he thought a vaccine passport mandate was necessary.
“At the end of the day, it ought to be the decision of an informed person to take a vaccine,” Diederich said. “That being said, I believe vaccines are effective.”
Winn said there were many reasons those who are not yet vaccinated do not want to be, citing some have adverse reactions to them, and many simply do not trust the government.
“I think individuals are smart enough to make their own decisions,” he said. “What (the government) is asking everyone to do is to get vaccinated to protect those who are already vaccinated because the vaccine doesn’t work as well as they had hoped. That concerns me as to why we are doing this. The fact is, this is confusing for most individuals who have common sense.”
Supervisor Kathy Miller was absent from Tuesday’s meeting.