Woman complains to Watertown council about proof of vaccination need for July 4th concert

Craig Fox, Watertown Daily Times, N.Y.
·3 min read

May 4—WATERTOWN — A local woman is accusing the city of discriminating against her for requiring that she prove she was vaccinated for the coronavirus before she can enter the Fourth of July concert at Thompson Park.

Genie Weaver, who has residences in Jefferson and Lewis counties, told City Council on Monday night that she shouldn't have to show proof that she received the COVID-19 vaccine or that she had a negative test for the virus to attend the Concert in the Park. The festivities this year would be held on July 1.

"To me, it's not public information," she said, adding it violates her rights and others with disabilities. "Is it OK to discriminate?"

She cannot get the vaccine because her health issues associated with her immune system and has had a reaction to vaccines, she told council members. She understands that the concert must follow rules on people wearing masks and social distancing, but she should not have to show proof of the vaccine, she said.

While she knows the requirement is a state guideline, the city should do something about the issue to help her and others.

"Something should be done for what's right," she said.

Two other people at Monday's meeting also expressed the same concerns about the vaccines. City Council candidate Jason Traynor agreed with Ms. Weaver.

Donnie Lee Barrigar, who got into legal trouble for taking down a Gay Pride flag in front of City Hall last June, said he will not follow the requirement.

"What are you going to do? Are you going to put me in jail?" he asked council.

Two weeks ago, Mayor Jeffrey M. Smith announced that the city was putting together the Fourth of July concert at the park, but the event would have to follow state COVID-19 guidelines for outside events.

Those attending the concert can either walk into the park at designated entry points or be shuttled in by bus. But they'll have to show they received the vaccine or recently tested negative for the virus.

Since the announcement for the concert, the city has received some other backlash about requiring proof of vaccines.

On Monday night, Mayor Smith made it clear he's not for requiring it either, but the city has no choice.

"They're the governor's regulations," he said. "I do not agree with them. I do not like them."

It's a state requirement, and the state would retaliate if the city didn't follow the restrictions, he said, adding he fears the state would reduce state aid to the city.

"We don't want the cancel culture this summer of not having an event," he said. "In order to have an event, we have to follow these guidelines."

The city hopes that the state will drop some of the guidelines by the time of the concert, as COVID-19 cases drop and more vaccines are given.

For instance, the capacity of outdoor events was recently increased from 20% to 33%, even though that change won't affect the concert, the mayor said.