LCO Health Center Director Issues Vaccine Mandate for Employees; TGB Approves
By Joe Morey
On Monday, September 27th, with a vote of 4-0-1, the LCO Tribal Governing Board (TGB) approved a vaccine mandate issued by LCO Health Center Director Gary Girard for all clinic employees. The mandate requires all employees be vaccinated by November 1st.
The motion to approve the mandate was made by TGB Member Don Carley, and seconded by LCO Vice-Chairwoman Lorraine Gouge. Others voting in favor of the motion were LCO Secretary-Treasurer Tweed Shuman and Michelle Beaudin, while Gary “Little Guy” Clause abstained from voting. LCO Chairman Louis Taylor was in attendance but doesn’t have a vote unless there is a tie. Glenda Barber was absent from the meeting.
In a discussion with Girard on Tuesday, Oct. 5th, two board members, Beaudin and Barber expressed their concern with issuing a mandate. Beaudin said she is more favorable of incentives for those who go get vaccinated on their own rather than being mandated. She favors giving a $100 payment to those persons. Barber said she is aware of members of the community who are clearly afraid of the vaccine without further study and data.
According to the vaccine mandate policy that was handed down to clinic employees, there are two reasons for exemptions listed, which include, for medical reasons if one is at health risk and the other is for religious reasons. It states in the policy that ultimately, Dr. Steve Miszkiewicz, Chief Medical Doctor, has the final decision to approve any exemption for medical reasons.
Girard told the TGB that anyone who is approved for an exemption would then have to be tested twice per week, according to the madate policy. Girard said the clinic had two employees resign over the mandate and one person had to be terminated for their refusal to be vaccinated. Initially there were more employees opposed to it, but since the mandate came down, Girard noted they have scheduled their appointments.
“We also had one employee who was approved for exemption due to medical reasons,” Girard stated. “But that person is now testing twice a week on Monday and Thursdays and is required to wear an N95 mask.”
Beaudin expressed to TGB members her concern that employees are being dismissed over the mandate, citing that a year ago, during the pandemic, they were good enough but now they aren’t.
In regards to issuing a mandate, Girard stated, “This was not an easy decision. It was trying and very difficult, but we give them the rundown on the safety and efficacy of the vaccine. Some have concerns with there being a .005% death reaction, but I’ve explained to them they are 9x more likely to die without the vaccine than with it.”
Girard reported to the TGB that the LCO Community currently has 30 positive cases and 91 in the county. He said the current state rate of positivity is 10% of those who get the test.
“We are at a high rate of infection right now. We are as high now as we were at our peak last December and January,” Girard stated. “It’s more critical now that people get vaccinated than ever before.”
Beaudin asked if the clinic was close to bringing vaccine clinics out to the tribal communities as it has been discussed at the last few meetings.
Girard said Dr. Steve is still working on going into the communities but that when they have in the past, they didn’t get a very good response. He explained they did clinics in Reserve, New Post and the casino back in December during the peak.
“We did 17 vaccinations at the LCO School on Monday,” Girard said. He stated the clinic was also doing vaccines on Wednesday and Friday of this week.
Girard said that booster shots are also available at the clinic for anyone 18 years of age and up who had the two previous Pfizer vaccines. They are for persons six months after their second shot.