Legal expert talks vaccine mandates, as JaCo/JoCo Commissioners fight them

MEDFORD, Ore. – Commissioners in both Jackson and Josephine County are trying to combat vaccine mandates from the state and federal government. Jackson County is even preparing to vote on declaring a local state of emergency Thursday.

Jackson County Commissioners will vote Thursday to declare a local state of emergency due to what they’re calling a lack of labor in medical facilities. With medical personnel having to get the COVID-19 vaccine some people are leaving the industry.

“About 81 of our on members will not be at the bedside anymore after October 18,” said Susan Bruce, Oregon Nurses Association.

Two out of the three Jackson County Commissioners said Tuesday they’d vote to call the state of emergency.

“It’s still a message that needs to be sent, our constituents need to be heard,” said Commissioner Rick Dyer.

They’ll meet Thursday to formally vote. Meanwhile, in Josephine County, Commissioners are calling the State COVID-19 mandates a direct enemy of peoples’ liberty.

“To me, liberty has a great big broad thing. When we try to take away liberty, when we try to define liberty it’s really tough,” said Commissioner Dan DeYoung.

Commissioners met Wednesday about what their county should do about the state’s vaccine mandate.

“I don’t want to just tell the governor we don’t like what you’re doing. I want to ask for something tangible that’ll help local folks make a better decision,” said Commissioner Darin Fowler.

But while some local politicians don’t believe vaccine mandates are legal, Willamette University’s Law Professor Paul Diller said Gov. Kate Brown’s office is using a 116-year-old case as justification. Jacobson v. Massachusetts dates back to the smallpox pandemic. The U.S. Supreme Court sided with the state when Jacobson refused the smallpox vaccine, was prosecuted and fined $5 dollars.

“You could go to court, sue about it, and lose in requesting the preliminary injunction, but your case might not get dismissed. It’s just in the meantime it takes effect and you might be out of a job. But the lawsuit might get heard in-depth in court a year later,” said Diller.

Just last month, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett struck down a legal challenge to Indiana University’s vaccine mandate for students. Though she did so without comment, months earlier a federal judge who ruled against the students pointed to Jacobson v. Massachusetts as a reason why. Both of the judges were appointed to their respective courts by former President Donald Trump.

NBC5 News reached out to both Asante and Providence on Wednesday with questions about their resources and if they’ve requested help from Jackson County. Both health systems told NBC5 News they are not involved with the county’s potential emergency declaration.

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