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Barnstable County to Consider Vaccine Mandate

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Barnstable County Commissioners are considering a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for county employees.

Chairman of the three-member board Ronald Bergstrom from Chatham pitched the requirement at a meeting Wednesday.

Bergstrom said the pandemic is a public health crisis that's claimed the lives of nearly 700,000 Americans, and vaccination is key to confronting and ultimately ending it.

He said a mandate would improve vaccine rates, despite fears that it violates civil liberties.

"I'm sorry if I hurt anyone's feelings," Bergstrom said Wednesday. “If you were walking down the street and you saw a 100 dollar bill, and I said 'Pick up that 100 dollar bill,' and they said, 'Well, I don’t want to pick that up, who are you to tell me what to do? And who are you to tell me to take the proper procedures and the proper effort to protect those around you?'”

The County employs 236 people, excluding elected officials.

County commissioner Sheila Lyons said she supported the employee mandate as well. She said that it is the right thing to do, despite concerns some have raised that mandates restrict freedom of choice.

“This is a sense of freedom," Lyons said. "It gives freedom to others, and it gives freedom to yourself in a way that you weren’t expecting.”

Lyons said during Wednesday's meeting that a better vaccination rate could bring back more of a sense of normalcy.

County commissioners are expected to vote the employee vaccine mandate during a meeting in a couple weeks.

Commissioner Mark Forest said he wanted to see the details of a potential mandate before voting. The board asked county staff to research the language of other similar mandates before bringing a proposal forward to vote.

Governor Charlie Baker introduced a mandate for state employees in August, which is expected to go into effect on October 17. That will force some 45,000 state employees to get vaccinated.