Madison County signaled this week that it would not comply with any future COVID-19 vaccination mandates that might come from the state or federal government.
County board members on Wednesday night passed a resolution announcing their position on public health mandates related to the vaccine for county employees.
The resolution also discourages other employers in the county, including schools, from mandating vaccination for their workers. Madison County State’s Attorney Tom Haine noted during the board meeting that the resolution is nonbinding, so it does not compel any action and the county will not enforce it.
In Illinois, school personnel as well as health care workers are required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or submit to at least weekly testing for the disease.
The federal government told all U.S. employers with at least 100 workers to mandate vaccinations, too, but the Supreme Court recently blocked that requirement. Haine said it would have applied to Madison County, and the board’s resolution describes how it would respond to future mandates.
“This resolution gives an idea of what kind of position Madison County would take,” Haine said in response to board member questions. “And here’s the thing, if Madison County chooses to not comply with any future mandates as a pseudo large corporation or mid-size corporation, then it would be subject to possible repercussions. What those are are sometimes very ambiguous. Maybe none.”
The resolution states that the county board “affirms to its own employees that it will neither impose a vaccine mandate nor require testing of its employees and will defend and protect the rights of its employees if such mandates are imposed upon Madison County by other units of government.”
About 25 people attended a rally in support of the resolution just before Wednesday night’s board meeting as the temperature dropped.
They stood outside the Madison County Courthouse and administration building holding signs that read, “No to mandates,” “Freedom not force,” and “I am not a science project.”
The board meeting room was packed with mostly unmasked people.
The county states in the resolution that it supports “personal choice with regard to COVID-19 mitigation efforts.”
But the board was not in complete agreement. The vote was 20-7 largely along party lines, with all 17 Republicans in favor of the resolution and most of the 11 Democrats against it.
Only three Democrats voted for it: Robert Pollard from East Alton, Christopher Hankins from Pontoon Beach and Victor A. Valentine, Jr. from Edwardsville. Nick Petrillo, a Democrat from Granite City, was absent.
Board member Jack Minner, a Democrat from Edwardsville, said he was “appalled” that the county was disregarding guidelines suggested by health experts with the resolution.
On the other hand, Jamie Goggin, a Republican board member from Edwardsville, said he is vaccinated and encourages others to take the vaccine but described public health mandates as government overreach.
During the meeting, board member Bill Stoutenborough, a Democrat from Alton, read from an open letter that 10 metro-east hospitals wrote to the community on New Year’s Day imploring citizens to get vaccinated as the number of hospitalizations surged again.
“Please let’s not restrict what people do by having a resolution that says, ‘Hey, my freedom is in jeopardy.’ Our country is in jeopardy,” Stoutenborough said.
Public health officials encourage people to get vaccinated to protect themselves and others from COVID-19 and possible severe illness from the disease.