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Otero County Commissioners pen letter to Gov. asking for waiver to vaccine mandate

Published: Sep. 23, 2021 at 3:17 PM MDT
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LA JUNTA, Colo. (KKTV) - The state is responding after a southern Colorado community wrote a letter asking to be exempt from the federal vaccine mandate.

The Arkansas Valley Regional Medical center says right now they are hurting when it comes to staff, and they are worried the vaccine mandate will cause them to lose even more workers.

The problem has prompted some Otero County Commissioners to write to the Governor and the state. Commissioner Jim Baldwin was one of the handful that signed the letter.

“Here when you lose two, three, four people, that’s a big deal,” he said. “They don’t have a huge staff to begin with and then you lose a few? They don’t have the staffing.”

Baldwin told 11 News they already have staffing issues in rural Colorado and this vaccine mandates will only make it worse.

The Governor’s office said the following in response to the letter:

“The vast majority of frontline health care workers are vaccines [sic] and are begging their fellow Coloradans to get vaccinated because they are tired, battered, and bruised from taking care of unvaccinated Coloradans suffering from COVID-19. We have the cure to end this pain in the form of a safe and effective vaccine. We want to end the pandemic now and can do that by getting more Coloradans vaccinated. Under President Biden’s executive order, these workers fall under a federal mandate - all health care facilities that receive federal Medicare and Medicaid dollars must be fully vaccinated.

Many health care facilities and hospitals have already taken this necessary step and have shared their stories with the administration about the challenges they face to protect and care for their patients. We will review the letters, could potentially offer staffing support if necessary, will continue to follow the science and do what is best for our most vulnerable.”

Office of Gov. Jared Polis

In addition, the Chief Executive Officer for the Arkansas Valley Regional Medical Center says during the past 20 months they have cared for nearly 200 ER patients with COVID and 120 other COVID patients all while protecting their employees.

The letter says adds they support vaccines and they support vaccine education but rural communities like the ones in Otero County are at the breaking point, and they are afraid it will get worse if it is enforced.

“You know, we are losing our freedoms and that is what people are really up in arms about. People around here especially I guess, they don’t like being told to do this, it’s your body whether you like it or not…they’re not gonna go for it,” Baldwin said. “It may work in metro areas or places that are densely populated and they are more worried about catching COVID.”

He continued.

“To me it would be a whole lot better to go to the hospital and the small chance of catching COVID then to go to the hospital and there’s no staff… you may not catch COVID but there is nobody there to take care of you… which is worse?”

The hospital says right now they are reviewing medical and religious exemptions and have no further comment.

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