Corvallis Set Vax Mandate, Firefighters Pay Price

Four firefighters in Corvallis are tired of feeling they are in “time out” at work. When the city of Corvallis set a vaccine mandate for its employees, it created a few unusual rules for some who have chosen to not get vaccinated. 

For those who didn’t know, firefighters live in the station for 24-hour shifts followed by 48 hours off. This means that the crew on duty must live, eat, and sleep in the same space. 

And now, any firefighter in Corvallis who has been given an exemption from the COVID-19 vaccine which numbers four must now segregate themselves during meal times. They must also wear N95 masks at all times when they are in the fire station even when they sleep. 

Corvallis Public Information Officer Patrick Rollens told the Albany Democrat-Herald, “The city chose to provide an accommodation to the unvaccinated employees. We had other options available to us under state law, including dismissing the employees or putting them on unpaid leave. But again, we chose to offer an accommodation.” 

Firefighters are not being singled out. Rollens said that every city employee is “required to wear masks while working indoors.” 

On Sept. 23 less than two weeks after the firefighters were informed about the new regulations by letter, protesters came out to Corvallis City Hall in support of these four Corvallisites. Among the protesters were firefighters from throughout Oregon, many of whom were worried that they would be sleeping in N95s in the near future. A perhaps particular concern for Albany is that nine out of ten firefighters have already requested exemptions. 

The protest also included environmentalists, political candidates, homeschool proponents, and fellow firefighters from neighboring towns. The protest was organized by a group called Mandate Free Oregon, which has been raising funds to support legal battles against mask and vaccine mandates put into place by Gov. Kate Brown. 

One firefighter from Albany — a 27-year veteran — called this an “overreach by the city of Corvallis.” 

 

By Sally K Lehman