St. Clair County Board approves welfare resolution taking stance on COVID-19 mandates – The Times Herald

St. Clair County’s board of commissioners adopted a “general welfare” resolution Thursday addressing COVID-19 mitigation requirements two weeks after hundreds flooded meeting chambers voicing support for personal freedoms.

Far fewer showed up at this week’s meeting, though multiple residents spoke in support of and against the board passing one of two resolutions aimed at making a statement on COVID and mandate issues.

The first option, dubbed a “freedom of choice resolution,” advocated for medical autonomy and against quarantines, contact tracing, and vaccine passports, as well as any mandates of county employees.

The general welfare resolution, or the second option, had been written by legal counsel and was approved by commissioners 4-2.

Gary Fletcher, the county’s attorney, said the major difference was it would heed existing federal or state requirements — specifically adding “except as required by law” to a county promise not to require employees to get vaccinated against the virus.

“If we feel it’s illegal (or) unlawful, we challenge it in courts. We don’t not follow it and reap the consequences,” Fletcher said in response to a question from Commissioner Lisa Beedon about how future federal- or state-level requirements would impact the resolutions. “We’ll evaluate whatever comes down. It’ll be followed and we’ll come to you with an opinion over whether or not it should be challenged.”

The welfare resolution additionally included a paragraph commending the St. Clair County Health Department, other county offices, and community health care providers for “immense efforts” throughout the pandemic.

Both resolutions encouraged residents to seek information on mitigation measures through their chosen health care provider.

The first would have pledged to send a copy to local state legislative representatives, as well as the clerk for every county in the state, among others. The second only pledges to share a copy with lawmakers.

The first resolution had been introduced to the board by Commissioner Dave Rushing, according to a memo to board members from Administrator Karry Hepting. Rushing was absent Thursday.

Commissioner Dave Vandenbossche made the motion to consider the first resolution, but the option fell short for lack of a second in support. He voted against the second resolution and declined to comment after Thursday’s meeting.

Beedon also voted against the welfare resolution, though she admitted there were “good parts” in the measure.

“Definitely the recognition and support of county health officials and everything they’ve done to keep us healthy, certainly encouraging citizens to stay informed and make decisions that are right for them,” she said. “I just don’t feel like we need a resolution to say that.”

Rather than exclusively advocating against mandates, Beedon threw her broader support “100% behind the health department” and its public health officer, Dr. Annette Mercatante, allowing them to “make the decisions she feels are medically necessary for our community.”

Residents both for and against COVID resolutions voice concerns

Mandates for things like masks and vaccines became a point of contention for some residents earlier this year amid discussion about the county health department’s public health order that required unvaccinated people to quarantine, particularly upsetting parents whose kids were kept out of school.

Mercatante rejected a request from the board to consider rescinding the quarantine order, though it was rolled back Oct. 1 because of state budget legislation that threatened public health funding.

Public comment at the Oct. 7 county board meeting — with most speakers skeptical of the health department and mandates — had lasted more than two hours.

On Thursday, it lasted roughly 20 minutes.

Those who supported the resolutions continued to air concerns about rhetoric surrounding mandates and the merit in local health orders.

Contact Jackie Smith at (810) 989-6270 or jssmith@gannett.com. Follow her on Twitter @Jackie20Smith.

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