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California's COVID-19 vaccine mandate for healthcare workers & educators spurs protest in SLO

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Angel Russell
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Demonstrators protest California's vaccine mandate for healthcare workers and educators outside the SLO County Public Health building on Wednesday, August 11, 2021

A nurse in scrubs waves a sign at traffic that reads “I am informed, and I do not consent.” She's joined by about fifty other healthcare workers, teachers and families who are against Governor Newsom’s mandate that all healthcare workers and educators must get vaccinated, or take weekly tests for COVID-19.

It's part of a peaceful protest against the mandate held Wednesday evening in front of the San Luis Obispo County Department of Public Health Building.

"My sign says ‘when there is risk, there must be choice,'” said a local teacher and mom, who preferred to use her first name only, Annie.

She’s protesting because she thinks the mandate violates her constitutional rights.

“I believe that we should be able to make the choices for our own bodies," Annie said. "And they are acting like you can lose your job. That’s duress. People should not make that decision under duress.”

Nicole Dorfman, head of the Central Coast Health Coalition, was also in attendance at the demonstration. 

“A year ago, the nurses ,they were our frontline workers, they were our heroes," Dorfman said. "Now? They are villains if they don’t do what the government and the public health department is telling them to do, now they are criminals.”

California healthcare workers have until September to get at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and educators in both public and private schools must prove they are fully inoculated by Oct 15 or they will have to submit weekly testing for the virus.

One parent at the protest, Dolly Porter, was with her four kids at the demonstration. She’s decided to pull her children from public school this year because she doesn’t agree with the mandate for students to wear facial coverings. 

“I feel like we, the people, we have choices," Porter said. "So I don’t have to send my kids back to school. I can homeschool them, so that’s what we are going to do.”

In a press conference Wednesday, Governor Newsom said these mandates are a matter of public safety, especially with students returning to the classroom this month, and with the Delta variant rapidly increasing COVID-19 cases throughout the state.

Angel Russell is a former KCBX News reporter who started her career in journalism as a reporter and producer for KREX on Colorado's Western Slope; she later moved to the Central Coast to work for KSBY as weekend anchor and weekday reporter. She holds a BA in journalism from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, and playing guitar and piano.
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