TAWAS CITY – The Iosco County Board of Commissioners voted 4-0 during their Sept. 1 Committee of the Whole meeting to have the county attorney look over a proposed ordinance from the Iosco County Republican Party Chairman David Chandler, which would ban COVID-19 vaccine mandates and face mask mandates in Iosco County.

Chandler presented the “Bill of Rights” ordinance document to commissioners during the commissioner’s regular meeting and told commissioners that the Iosco County Republicans came up with the document.

He claimed that the reason for the document is that government entities or private business did not have the right to mandate that residents get COVID-19 vaccines because of laws cited in the ordinance and because of the Bill of Rights, which are the first 10 amendments in the constitutions.

Under the proposed ordinance, county law enforcement would have legal recourse to go after departments or citizens who do not follow the rules of the ordinance or the laws cited, including the 9th Amendment.

Although the ordinance does not specifically state that it is to ban mask or vaccine mandates, Chandler specifically said in his presentation that the ordinance was for that purpose.

“[The Iosco County Republicans] voted to submit this ordinance last month to the county for approval, this ordinance is meant to protect the rights of every single citizen in the county from government agencies, corporations and local business that are currently in the business of violating our rights on a daily basis,” he said. “Under our constitution, no one has the right to take ownership of your health, they cannot mandate that you wear a mask, they cannot mandate that you take a shot. You can do it voluntarily, but they can’t mandate it as a condition of employment.”

Chandler likened mandates to the American Civil War and called so-called mandates, ridiculous.

“We fought a civil war over slavery, and these people are sliding slavery back into this country under the guise of protecting us from a virus, that is the bottom line,” he said. “What does this ordinance do? It publicizes U.S. laws that we already have in place. It establishes the rules of engagement when it comes to enforcing these laws.”

Chandler told commissioners that there are too many restrictive issues concerning COVID-19 in the state and county.

“If you look around I don’t see the crematoriums going 24/7 burning dead bodies, I don’t see the virus mayhem that people promised us,” he told commissioners. “This all started just 18 weeks ago with ‘Just two weeks everybody stay home and take it easy because we don’t want to overrun the medical system,’ well now 18 months later they are mandating this stuff, that was never in the contract.”

According to current COVID-19 statistics in the county, there have been 2,197 cases of the virus in the county, as well as 78 deaths attributed to the virus. Statewide that is 1.07 million cases and 21,657 deaths.

Currently in Iosco County there are no mandates for vaccines or masks from government entities such as Iosco County or District Health Department No. 2, only recommendations the public wear masks and get vaccines. One private business, Ascension Hospitals, which includes the Ascension St. Joseph Hospital in Tawas City, is requiring vaccines for employees.

“Ascension will require that all associates be vaccinated against COVID-19, whether or not they provide direct patient care, and whether they work in our sites of care or remotely. This includes associates employed by subsidiaries and partners; physicians and advanced practice providers, whether employed or independent; and volunteers and vendors entering Ascension facilities,” as stated on the hospital’s website. 

Those vaccines are mandated by November, and according to the hospital, exceptions will be made for individuals for medical reasons or religious beliefs “exemption similar to the process we use for the annual influenza vaccine.”

Although the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has fully authorized the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said she would not implement any masking or vaccine mandates, although her office said the use of masks, as well as getting the vaccine, are strongly encouraged.

Some states have implemented laws that limit vaccine mandates for the state, or employer discrimination due to vaccine mandates, including mandating that employees get vaccines that have not been fully authorized by the FDA.

The Grand Traverse County Board of Commissioners recently passed a resolution banning government vaccine mandates for employees by the county. The resolution also recommended that area private business do the same, but the county did not have the authority to mandate private businesses stop their mandates, according to a Bridge.com story on the issue. The story went on to say that the health department and attorneys said the resolution would actually do little to stop any mandates and that the state constitution may not even provide for that power by a county government.

The U.S. Supreme Court has also weighed in on vaccine mandates. Recently The U.S. Supreme Court denied review of Indiana University’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for employees and students, leaving in place the rulings of lower courts in favor of the university’s requirements for vaccines and masks.

During public comments, Oscoda resident Carolyn Schwedler said she did not agree with Chandler on the issue.

“I disagree with what he has presented, I think that his research is not complete, I would count it as complete once he has spoken to local ER docs, the local medical examiner to make sure his facts are in line,” she said. “I think with  worldwide pandemic, and so many people drying, this is an unusual situation and we may have to allow mandates. I would hate to see our county board make a decision on this without all the facts in place, I disagree with this, I don’t think it has any use here.”

Because Chandler’s ordinance was presented during the public comments section of the regular meeting, which has a time limit, Commissioner Terry Dutcher invited him to speak more on the topic during the committee of the whole meeting, which is effectively the county’s organizational meeting held after their regular meeting. Chandler continued to discuss the current situation with COVID and said the county board was the direct representation of the county and said our county has suffered from COVID.

His idea was that Iosco County could band with other counties to spend money on legal firms in an effort to litigate private business that would impose mask or vaccine mandates against their employees.

He did not just touch on the pandemic, however. Chandler’s treatise ranged from a variety of topics, including George Soros, Afghanistan, Black Lives Matter, police, corporations, whether private businesses could refuse customers, mask mandates and his distrust in the media.

After the presentation, Dutcher cast a motion to send the ordinance to the full board for possible approval. Commissioner Robert Huebel supported the motion with a caveat. 

“I didn’t go to law school, but I think that we need a legal opinion,” Huebel said. “If there is one thing in this that steps out of bounds, the whole thing is junk, we need our attorney to look at it.”

Commission Chairman Jay O’Farrell said because it is an ordinance it is different from passing a proclamation or resolution. He said there would have to be public hearings on the ordinance and a way to enforce it. 

Dutcher amended his motion to have the county’s legal team look at the ordinance and to make an interpretation and recommendation, which should come at a future meeting. The motion passed 4-0.

It should be noted, the board is short a member due to the recent resignation of Commissioner John Moehring.

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