Lewis County Allows Staffers to Unmask Upon Vaccination Proof

POLLOCK: Avoiding Controversial Policy Would Hold Employees ‘Political Hostage’

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Fully-vaccinated members of the public can now unmask in some county buildings, and county employees are getting the option too — if they can prove their vaccination status.

Lewis County broke from some Southwest Washington lawmakers this week in passing the opt-in policy that allows staffers to ditch their face covering after proving they’ve been vaccinated against COVID-19.

The policy follows new state Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) guidance, and mirrors recent public health guidance that fully-vaccinated people can safely unmask in most situations. The new workplace policy is optional, but has been decried by many Republican state leaders, some of whom said it turns employers into “vaccine police,” or amounts to vaccine segregation.

This week, County Commissioner Lindsey Pollock agreed that the policy is “a failure of leadership from our governor” that will ultimately “divide and separate us.”

“But here we are. And at this point, rather than holding our employees political hostages, I look to adopt this mask policy, under duress,” the first-term commissioner said.

Pollock noted that she is “vehemently opposed to providing medical information to the government,” and is still debating whether she will provide proof of vaccination in order to work unmasked.

The county’s policy applies to the commissioners’ offices and departments that fall under them. Proof of vaccination will be required from employees, although the county will not retain a copy of that medical document. Individual departments may also create a vaccine verification log.

Fully-vaccinated members of the public who remove their masks will not be asked for vaccination proof. The county’s detention centers still require masks, per state guidance.

The county’s decision to adopt the policy comes after discussion and disagreement last week, when Commissioner Sean Swope took a hard stance against it.

This week, he argued that the county should allow individuals to sign an attestation of vaccination as proof of their status — something L&I would allow. Swope suggested that unvaccinated individuals who have COVID-19 antibodies from a prior infection could “consider themselves vaccinated” and unmask.

But if L&I discovers a maskless employee lied about their vaccination status, managers would be put in a “horrific, horrific place,” Pollock said Monday.

The county’s policy does not include an option to prove vaccination status through a signed attestation.

According to Commissioner Gary Stamper, county employees aren’t in agreement over the policy as a whole either. Last week, Public Works Director Josh Metcalf said some of his employees were looking forward to finally unmasking.

“I’ve talked to a number of employees that are for it, and I’ve talked to a number of employees who are against it, and I’ve talked to a number of employees who, they don’t have an opinion one way or another,” Stamper said. “So I think we’d all agree that this is not the best arrangement … but at the same time, this is the only thing we have in front of us.”

Swope doubled down on his opposition, at one point citing the county’s relatively low vaccination rate.

“So now what we’re doing, is we’re setting up a policy that our representatives have spoken out against, our senator has spoken out against, several other counties have spoken out against it. And it creates a divisive culture that I think Inslee intended to produce with these L&I guidelines,” Swope said, adding later: “I stand by that statement: vaccine segregation.”

 

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Bill Serrahn

Commissioner Swope was accused by Edna Fund's campaign of being and anti-vaxxer. I don't think he could have predicted that his beliefs would have caught him in this minor controversy so soon into his term. Since his "can identify as a goat", which came from his comments on this same issue earlier, he has gotten quite a lot of negative publicity. Commissioner Pollock is also very conservative, but having a background in medicine and science, she doesn't seem to have any reservations about everyone betting vaccinated. Commissioner Stamper is a pro business guy, but otherwise a moderate, and a rule follower.

Everyone want's to get rid of the dam masks and pretty much everyone has in private business offices, but the county must officially follow the L&I guidelines Currently that's the only legal way to take of the masks inside the county government offices.

The bigger issue here is what's happening on the BOCC. It seems that Commissioner Stamper and Pollock are tight as ticks and work and vote closely together, where Commissioner Swope is the odd man out. 95% of what comes before the BOCC is routine business and will get all three commissioner votes. It's just these few issues where political ideology comes into play where there may be a split vote or a protest abstention or a don't want to be on the record abstention.

It was no secret, to people who knew the candidates, the BOCC, in 2021, was meant to be comprised of Stamper, Pollock, and Fund. Commissioner Jackson was the odd man out and the other two incumbents wanted to replace him with Pollock and she was supported by both of them. It was a shock to Edna and everyone else, when this guy, Swope, with no background in government service, and despite Edna's $80k and smear fliers, beat her handily in both elections. The best laid plans of mice and men.... So Commissioner Swope was never meant to be on the team and he did a few things independently in the beginning which didn't help, like sending out a letter to the governor independently. So it seems that Commissioners Stamper and Pollock work closely together and now Commissioner Swope is the odd man out. His extreme ideology is coming out of the closet on these issues and is not compatible with the others who make cautious statements that they don't like the governor and state's mandates, but will go along with them nonetheless.

Will the county business be run by Commissioners Stamper and Pollock for the next 3 1/2 years with Commissioner Swope mainly sidelined or will they let him into the tent? Will Commissioner Swope realize that there are a lot of right wingers and people who hate the governor and his mandates in LC, but the office of commissioner is running the county business and extreme politics doesn't play well and probably won't win a second term?

Saturday, June 12
Joy99123

Sorry you feel we should all file suit and come together. It's good that "we" don't have someone new that just say's yes to everything. It's nice that we have someone that thinks out side of the box of Lewis County and thinks about other peoples views, instead of just saying yes to everything that is going on. I listen to every meeting those commissioners have. It looks to me that Com. Stamper is running the show and you better think like him. Well, there is a bunch of us that don't! What ever happened to "people's rights"? Thank you Com. Swope for Not being the yes man for everything that goes on.

Saturday, June 12