Oregon’s rural counties on their own if Covid vaccine mandate causes staff shortages

Jess Tolman, the chief of Vale Fire and Ambulance, is warning of service impairments if the state's vaccine mandate remains in place. (The Enterprise/Pat Caldwell)

SALEM – Rural counties that fear first responders will quit in bulk ahead of a mid-October vaccine mandate need to come up with their own solutions instead of relying on the state, according to state officials.

Several rural counties have already declared emergencies based on their conclusion that firefighters, paramedics, teachers and health care workers will resign by Oct. 18 instead of getting vaccinated for COVID-19. In central Oregon, Jefferson County emergency manager David Pond, a sergeant with the sheriff’s office, estimates only 50% of the county employees subject to vaccination requirements have received vaccines. That number may tick up slightly before Oct. 18, but he said he still expects . . .