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Bangs asks Brown to reconsider mask and vaccine mandates

As weekly COVID-19 case counts in Clatsop County continue to surge, primarily in unvaccinated residents, Clatsop County Commissioner Courtney Bangs sent a letter to Oregon Governor Kate Brown urging her to reconsider vaccine and mask mandates, especially, she said, with regard to schools.

Bangs said in the letter, quote: “While the vaccine is a valuable tool that Clatsop County will need to continue to advocate for and dispense, it is not without skeptics in our community.” Bangs also referred to COVID surges as “inevitable” and asked the governor to rely on local community based decision making.

Local health officials disagree. In a press conference last week, Interim County Health Department Director Margo Lalich stressed that measures like masking and vaccination are really the only reliable tools we have to control the pandemic.

Margo Lalich: “All it takes is one person, one person who’s infectious to create a problem that affects many.”

Clatsop County Commission Chair Mark Kujala said Bangs acted on her own in her capacity as a county commissioner and her letter to the Governor reflected her opinions only and does not speak for the entire commission.

Kujala said in an email, quote,”Having been a member of the County EOC and the Vaccine Task Force and witnessing the impact of COVID-19 over the last 18 months at Columbia Memorial Hospital – I have a unique perspective. It breaks my heart to know unvaccinated individuals are now extremely sick or dying from this virus. And to see the spread in assisted living facilities and in the workplace is tragic.”

Kujala said the vaccine has made much of this preventable. He said the benefits of getting vaccinated outweigh any costs.

On Wednesday, Clatsop County reported 22 new cases. There were 137 cases reported last week and 14 hospitalizations. As of last week’s report from the Clatsop County Vaccine Task Force, the county was at 58.4 percent vaccinated.

Columbia Memorial Hospital in Astoria reported last week that several patients have died there because they could not be transferred to larger, more specialized hospitals. While those were not COVID deaths, officials said it was overcrowding due to COVID that kept them from getting treatment.

I’m Joanne Rideout in Astoria.