JONESBOROUGH, Tenn. (WJHL) – In a Health, Education and Welfare Committee meeting on Thursday, a handful of Washington County commissioners took a vote.
By a majority decision of 4-1, the committee agreed to draft and present a resolution opposing the federal COVID-19 vaccine mandate for private businesses with 100 or more employees.
“I think we need to encourage government to stay out of private affairs,” commissioner Jim Wheeler said during discussion. “Be that private individuals or be that privately owned businesses.”
Danny Edens was another one of the commissioners who cast his vote in favor of the resolution.
“I think this violates our freedom of speech, our freedom of choice,” he said.
Edens added that he supports and has already received the COVID-19 vaccine. His issue is with the act of issuing a mandate itself.
“I just don’t think it’s right to allow our government at any level to tell us what we have to do instead of what we can or cannot do,” he said.
The vote to craft a resolution was not unanimous. Committee chairwoman and clinical psychologist, Dr. Jodi Jones, believes the federal mandate would serve a vital purpose.
“I personally don’t like the idea of the government mandating things,” she said during the meeting. “But, I think in desperation, in the midst of a public health crisis, our federal government is trying to throw us a rope.”
She admits she doesn’t know if a vaccine mandate is the right answer, but she believes one thing very clearly.
“I just worry a great deal about how we’re going to slow or stop the virus,” she said. “We just have too many people unvaccinated.”
Dr. Jones explained that even after the resolution is written, and if it is passed by the Washington County commissioners, it has no real political power.
“This letter is just our county expressing its opinion to Governor Lee and has no policy implications; it’s not a vote or anything super meaningful,” she said.
But, Jones said it is a clear statement to the county and beyond – one she believes sends the wrong message about fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.
Commissioner Edens, however, feels people have made up their minds on the COVID-19 vaccine long before the committee’s resolution.
“I think that’s a personal belief, a personal choice, a decision that they’re going to make regardless,” Edens said.
The proposed resolution will now be crafted and put to a vote as part of the Washington County Commission’s scheduled October meeting. That is scheduled for Monday, October 25 at 6 p.m.