Mandates and vaccines, sorting it all out

Employees push back against Biden Administration’s COVID-19 order, Governor Ricketts, and WCDHD Executive Director speak out
Website to assist people opposing a vaccine mandate.
Website to assist people opposing a vaccine mandate.
Published: Oct. 27, 2021 at 9:05 PM CDT
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NORTH PLATTE, Neb. (KNOP) - North Platte employees from more than one business or company are being affected by COVID-19. And more than one business has employees ready and willing or already leaving due to a COVID-19 vaccine mandate. None may be more noticeable right now than the giant employer in North Platte, arguably the largest employer in the area - the Union Pacific Railroad.

A rally was held on a Saturday afternoon in October after the mandates by President Biden were issued. At least 200 people gathered to speak up for their individual freedoms as American citizens. They are being told they must comply with President Biden’s executive order by getting the vaccine by December 8 or be considered medically unfit to work for the railroad. News 2 heard from the railroad the week of the protest, and the basic surmise explained they didn’t have a choice as a business that contracts with the federal government.

Now, as the gap closes on a December 8 deadline, many U.P.R.R. employees are turning to help on a website organized for them, which now is offering assistance to employees against the “forced vaccine” of other businesses as well. A link to a gofundme account is on the website, and over $13,000 has been given to be used, according to organizers Brenda Fourtner and Myron Larchick, to pay civil attorneys to represent people in the “fight to keep their freedoms.” On the site, also, lawyers’ questionnaires, contacts, updates, exemption letters, and instructions if you’ve been given an exemption denial.

Governor Pete Ricketts agrees with preserving American freedoms, saying, “I think I’ve made it very clear: I encourage people to get the vaccines. But I am 100% against a vaccine mandate. I think that it’s absolutely wrong to make anybody choose between a shot in the arm they don’t want and feeding their family.”

Here in the West Central District Health Department, Executive Director Shannon Vanderheiden has concerns about a pandemic and what it is doing to our community, state, and country. She is not speaking on the vaccine mandates but is very adamant about the importance of a vaccine.

Vanderheiden says the health district is not doing well against the virus. When this story aired on television, 94 people were listed as dead from COVID-19 in this district. Thursday, that number is 96. Two more lives have ended with the virus to blame. Vanderheiden says as a community we have double the state rate of deaths and one of the worst vaccine rates in Nebraska. In comparison, 36.68 percent of the population in the WCDHD are fully vaccinated. The state average in Nebraska is 55.9 percent.

The governor and the railroad employees want to maintain the right to make an informed decision. Union Pacific employees want the world to remember the days when, before a vaccine, they were on the “front lines,” before being “forced to choose between what they believe and having a job.”

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