Delaware City Council gathered on Monday for a work session that, among other items, included a discussion on the COVID-19 vaccination and the increasing trend of entities requiring the vaccination.
Councilwoman Lisa Keller initiated the discussion, which was a continuation of last week’s council discussion regarding Ohio Wesleyan University’s decision to require students to be vaccinated in order to attend classes this semester. Keller asked council to consider adopting at least parts of state Sen. Andrew Brenner (R-Delaware)’s proposed Senate Bill 169 as its own policy for the city, or at the very least, hear from its citizens on how vaccination requirements have already negatively affected them.
Brenner’s bill, which is currently still under review by the Senate Health Committee, proposes to prohibit mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations or proof of vaccinations across the state.
Keller began by saying she feels it’s important to keep in mind the “large degree” of individuals in the community who have medical conditions that prohibit them from receiving the vaccination. Keller said it’s “up to us to make decisions about what the future of our community looks like, and not be reactive but proactive in stating that the rights of those people need to be protected and guaranteed by this council while we wait for action to be taken at the state level.”
Citing a recent study from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) that detailed a breakout of COVID-19 cases in Provincetown, Massachusetts, last month, many of whom had previously been vaccinated, Keller questioned why the unvaccinated are, in her opinion, being alienated when even the vaccinated are still capable of carrying and transmitting the virus.
“Is this really the kind of world that we want to live in, where we have a stigma attached to one group of people?” Keller asked her fellow council members. “Or do we want to sit back and allow a discriminatory practice to take place in our city against some of these people, especially now knowing it may not end up making anyone safer?”
Keller later said, “My request for you … is that we take Senate Bill 169 as a model for our community and craft something that makes sense for our citizens here … and say, ‘Regardless of what happens in the rest of the state, regardless of what happens with state legislature, Delaware citizens are going to be protected against this, and Delaware is going to ensure that there is equality for all of our citizens.”
Councilman Cory Hoffman speculated on the possibility of opening the city to a lawsuit from businesses who have mandated companywide vaccinations if the city attempts to tell them they cannot require them in establishments operating within Delaware.
With the conversation scattering into many different directions, and various hypotheticals being tossed around, Councilman Drew Farrell attempted to refocus the conversation on the primary issue that sparked the initial discussions.
“I’ve gotten emails requesting interviews about this legislation. There is no legislation,” Farrell said. “We’re talking about a very specific situation with Ohio Wesleyan and whether or not we have the right to regulate a private, religious institution, which we don’t.”
Vice Mayor Kent Shafer responded to Keller’s comments by saying, “My feeling on that is none of us are medical doctors or epidemiologists, and everybody interprets the data from the CDC differently. My position is I don’t support passing a law regulating or prohibiting employers from requiring a vaccine. In regard to the situation at Ohio Wesleyan, I certainly sympathize with those students … But the place for them to take up that question is the courts, not here.”
Keller went on to say ask, “I think the fundamental question is are you really telling me that you’re comfortable with some other agency telling you you have to put a needle in your body and inject a substance into your body? Is that really a conversation that we’re having? That we’re all going to sit here and be okay because it doesn’t impact me?”
Shafer responded to Keller’s questions by saying his unwillingness to support city legislation isn’t a personal stance on a person’s choice to remain unvaccinated but rather apprehension about the city being the governing body to remove that decision from the hands of individual businesses.
“What I’m saying is I don’t feel we should be regulating what businesses do in regard to a vaccine requirement,” Shafer said. “The courts are the place to do that, and to pass a citywide ban on any business is just not something that I am willing to do … I certainly understand people’s decision not to get vaccinated, and they have every right to do that.
“I also know businesses have every right to make decisions about how they conduct business. Ohio Wesleyan is a private, religious institution looking out for the wellbeing of their student body. I’m not saying the decision is right or not; I’m saying I don’t feel like I should jump in on their decision.”
Ultimately, with no other council members expressing any interest in moving forward with possible city legislation, the discussion ended.
Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @DillonDavis56.