Letter to Governor Brown to reverse vaccine mandates, implement medical and religious exemptions

August 25, 2021

Governor Kate Brown
900 Court St. NE, Room 254
Salem, OR 97301

Honorable Governor Brown,

We strongly request you reverse course and remove the vaccination mandates placed on our health care and education sectors, and public and state employees. These mandates were announced without warning and without guidance, causing chaos, confusion and fear among our citizens. In addition, we request you begin an immediate process to allow for medical and religious exemptions to honor the rights and freedoms of Oregonians to make the best medical decisions for themselves and their families. As a staunch advocate for the importance of personal medical choice in so many other healthcare areas, we know you understand and support this same philosophy.

The impacts these vaccination mandates will have on rural schools, health care providers and hospitals, prisons, public safety, social and public services, and other vaccine mandated sectors, will be severe. Thousands of hard-working Oregonians will be unfairly forced to choose between a medical procedure and the ability to provide for their families.

These mandates will result in more harm than good and will have an opposite effect than desired. Rural hospitals have already announced these mandates will result in significant staff loss and will be forced to shut their doors, further burdening an already-overwhelmed health care system. Public safety will be immediately at risk. Our firefighters, police, first responders and EMT sectors are all understaffed as is, and further losses will put our communities in harm’s way.

In times of crisis such as this pandemic, it’s more important than ever that the government and its citizens have a working relationship built on trust, transparency and accountability, and that individual rights and freedoms are honored. As we anticipate the inevitable and unfortunate rise in COVID cases, we must allow local public health authorities and local leaders to make decisions to create the most appropriate plan of action in their communities. We ask that you allow local branches of these sectors the authority to make decisions on how mandates are structured, communicated and if, how, and when they are implemented.

Since day one, we have joined you and our constituents in learning how to navigate this pandemic, shared information, advocated for our constituents to aggressively take action to slow the spread, wear masks, social distance, seek out the facts, abide by the laws, and obtain official information on the vaccine and how to get one if they so choose. We trust Oregonians to make smart decisions for themselves, their families, their neighbors, and their communities. We agree we need to do better, but mandated vaccines are not the answer.

We have included with this letter a series of questions sent to Oregon’s Legislative Counsel regarding medical and religious exemptions and would request a conversation with you as soon as possible. We appreciate your immediate consideration, action, and response to these matters.

Lynn Findley                                                      Representative Mark Owens
Senate District 30                                               House District 60

Download the PDF of the letter here.

Download addendums to the letter here.

Letter to Governor Brown on school mask mandates

August 3, 2021

Honorable Governor Kate Brown
900 Court St. NE, Room 254
Salem, OR 97301

Governor Brown,

As legislators, we remain consistent in our positions that our local school districts in conjunction with local public health authorities continue to have the best pulse on their communities and should ultimately be the arbiters of mask policies and mandates.

With that, and in full support of our school districts, public health authorities, parents and ultimately and most importantly our students, we have the following requests.

First, scientific data specific to Oregon necessitating the statewide, schools-wide, grade-wide mask mandate needs to be made public and accessible immediately. Dr. Dean Sidelinger communicated to legislators during a conference call on Monday, August 2 that there is no scientific evidence that schools or children grades K-12 are responsible for community spread. If that is the case and yet the mask mandate is still being instituted, the data needs to be made available to the public – not just legislators or administrators – so we are all operating with transparency and understanding of the science and data.

Second, officials within the Governor’s Office and Oregon Department of Education (ODE) hold a series of public, in-person town halls and listening sessions throughout our counties immediately over the course of the next several weeks. Our teachers, school employees and parents deserve the right to fully understand the rules and the very serious implications (see addendum Exhibit A Slide 14 “Penalties” from an “un-official” meeting held by COSA-OASE on Monday, August 2). These actions need to be made public and official, and these statewide entities have the responsibility to make these decisions known to our school districts. Behind virtual screens, behind closed doors and without enabled participation will not cut it for such significant policy-making determinations.

Third, we need clear and precise metrics for when the statewide mask policy may be lifted. We assume if there is enough data to trigger crossing a threat-threshold to implement these requirements, that there then must also be data showing when we would be under the threat. When will our schools know they’ve met the targets for safety? What are the markers for progress or regression? What’s the viable off-ramp? What other factors will contribute to these determinations? When will your office share these metrics with the public?

We all agree our students cannot suffer another year without in-person instruction. We also agree the health and safety of Oregonians must be a top priority. We now need to agree that building public trust through transparency and providing information before regulation will be key to slowing and eventually stopping the spread of COVID-19 and its variants.

Thank you for your swift and thorough response.

Senator Lynn Findley                                                   Representative Mark Owens
Senate District 30                                                         House District 60

Read the letter in PDF with the Exhibit Ad Addendum here.