WENATCHEE — Just over 100 people opposed to the latest state mandate that private health care employees get vaccinated gathered Thursday afternoon outside the Wenatchee Valley Hospital & Clinics Campus at Ninth Street and Chelan Avenue.
Many people at the protest held signs that read, “my body, my choice,” or “no masks, no vaxs, no mandates.”
“It’s my business if I’m vaccinated or not. I don’t need providers, patients, colleagues — I don’t need anybody asking me if I’m vaccinated or not or single me out if I’m not vaccinated. And there’s no specific reason,” said one woman in nurse’s scrubs and a Confluence Health badge who declined to give her name. She was among a group of Confluence employees who walked out of the clinic building to watch the crowd protesting while on their break Thursday afternoon.
“You either get vaccinated or you lose your job,” the employee said. “That’s fine then. I guess I lose my job. I just purchased my home, and I guess that’s what it’s going to be. I lose my home, too. It’s my choice. If I don’t want to, then I don’t have to. And that doesn’t make me any different from anybody else.”
Gov. Jay Inslee announced on Monday that state workers and private health care workers will be required to be fully vaccinated by Oct. 8.
Some in the crowd said they believe vaccines are causing harm to people while others wanted to defend a person’s right to make their own medical choices.
On Tuesday, Confluence Health, the largest healthcare provider in the region, said it will require all its staff to get vaccinated in accordance with the governor’s mandate. About 72% of its 4,400 employees are fully vaccinated.
“While it’s disheartening to see our team members divided over Gov. Inslee’s vaccine mandate, we recognize we are all privileged to have the freedom of speech,” said Andrew Canning, Confluence Health spokesperson, in an email. “We greatly value all of our teammates who have shown such dedication to our patients, their loved ones and to each other during the pandemic. We respect the rights of those who have chosen to have their voices heard in a peaceful and civil manner.”
At Central Washington Hospital, 26 people were hospitalized with the COVID-19 virus, with two people in the intensive care unit as of Thursday, according to Confluence Health’s COVID-19 webpage.
Across the state, 95.4% of COVID hospitalizations from Feb. 1 to July 24 are among the unvaccinated, according to a state Department of Health report.
In Chelan County, 96.9% of COVID-cases from Feb. to June were among the unvaccinated. In Douglas County, the percentage is 98%, according to a DOH report.
The Chelan-Douglas Health District recommends that the public get vaccinated as soon as possible if they haven’t already, said health district administrator Luke Davies at a Tuesday press conference.