Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors quietly ended the policy of regularly testing unvaccinated employees Tuesday, with only one supervisor objecting to the change.
The 4-1 decision came with the same vote but far less fanfare than when the policy was adopted Aug. 31, 2021, after more than two hours of public testimony from 50 people.
Of those who spoke, 33 opposed the policy based on what they claimed were false and misleading data, a lack of consensus among scientists, the failure of the vaccines to halt the virus while causing more health problems, false results from PCR tests and the violation of the U.S. Constitution, among other reasons.
The rest supported the policy, citing the need to protect vulnerable populations and to keep county services flowing, statistics showing the vaccine was safe and reduced the severity of the disease, and personal experiences with vaccinated and unvaccinated relatives who contracted the virus.
At that time, 4th District Supervisor Bob Nelson, who was then chairman of the board, voted “no” on mandating county employees be vaccinated against COVID-19 or submit to weekly testing.
Referring to court decisions stretching back more than 100 years that said governments have the right to set health mandates, Nelson said, “Just because it can be done doesn’t mean it should be done.”
This time, no members of the public showed up to speak either for or against rescinding the policy, possibly because it had been included on the board’s administrative agenda, which consists of items usually approved in a single vote without discussion.
But 1st District Supervisor Das Williams had the policy decision pulled so he could address the proposal, and he cast the lone dissenting vote.
“I respectfully disagree with the idea we should rescind our vaccination-or-testing policy,” Williams said. “County workers are emergency workers, and we will get another wave [of COVID-19 infections]. Hopefully, it will be smaller.
“There will be people who get sick from that wave. There will likely be people who will die from that wave,” he said, adding that if the county’s workforce policy can diminish that number, it should be retained.
Williams said he would support biweekly or bimonthly testing “to reduce the cost and the burden on employees who choose not to get vaccinated.”
But he said county employees are here to respond to the public’s needs “without getting them sick.”
The proposal did not replace testing with a mandate to wear masks or other steps to reduce the spread of infection, and no other supervisors commented before voting to rescind the policy.