Rogers County Information Technology Director Brett Williston asked a question during the weekly commissioners meeting that has been on everybody’s mind: can Rogers County, as a condition of employment, require employees to have a COVID-19 vaccination?
Rogers County District 3 Commissioner Ron Burrows and Rogers County District 1 Commissioner Dan Delozier answered yes.
“I think everyone should be vaccinated,” Delozier said. “That’s something we will need to work on legal with and yes.”
Williston said he works in IT and works with everyone within the building.
“I always say the best thing about our jobs is we get to work with every person in this courthouse, but the bad thing is in a situation like this, we could be unknown carriers,” he said. “It’s legally okay for us to require employees to be vaccinated, I really hope the board would look into that avenue to protect all their employees.”
Rogers County District 2 Commissioner Steve Hendrix said that is a slippery slope.
“I don’t know that you can mandate that across the board with just a broad stroke of the pen,” Hendrix said.
Hendrix said there are individual cases where people with underlying health conditions are advised not to not to get the vaccine.
An alternative of mandating the vaccine was proposed during the meeting, which is to offer incentives to employees to get the vaccine.
Commissioners took no action, but received an update from the Rogers County Health Department.
Renetta Harrison, Rogers County Health Department Health Educator, said they are encouraging people to social distance, wear masks and wash hands.
“From the health departments standpoint, with those numbers, we are recommending CDC guidelines,” she said. “That we mask indoors for everyone – even fully vaccinated – because this Delta variant is vastly more contagious. They’re liking it to chicken pox.”
Updates are given every Wednesday morning and, as of last Wednesday, 33.3 percent of Rogers County has been fully vaccinated while 39.5 percent has received a single dose.
There were 421 new cases within the last seven days. That equates to 65 cases per 100,000 people – a level Rogers County hasn’t seen since mid February.
Rogers County stands at a 27 percent positive rate on tests – a rate that hasn’t been seen since January.
The hospitalization data shows 75 percent of COVID hospitalizations in Rogers County are of the unvaccinated population
Within the last 30 days, there have been 941 cases. Twenty-six of those cases were hospitalized, giving Rogers County a hospitalization rate of 2.76 percent.
Hendrix said this is an epidemic of the unvaccinated.
“These statistics are great information, but they further validate whats going on in the hospitals right now,” he said. “This resurgence in this epidemic is truly an epidemic of the unvaccinated and these numbers support that. Vaccines are still readily available.”
Hendrix said the numbers show that vaccinated people are more protected than unvaccinated people.
“You can’t argue the statistics,” he said.
Delozier agreed and said the numbers are going to continue to grow.
“In my opinion, they’re going to continue to grow unless people get vaccinated,” he said.
Testing was brought up and what efforts were being done to provide testing.
“An increase number of cases shows an increase need for testing,” Hendrix said.
Rogers County Emergency Management Director Scotty Stokes said they are looking into purchasing a system to do their own testing.
Burrows said testing is really critical.