The Fresno County Democratic Party demanded that the Fresno city government mandate vaccines for employees. In a news release this week, the local party said the city must mandate vaccines, not just testing and masking policies.
“The irresponsible decision by thousands of Fresnans to not take the Covid vaccine is inflicting a terrible cost on the rest of us. Our city government needs to do far more to fight against this wave of selfish and destructive inaction,” the party wrote.
The party also questioned the faithfulness of unvaccinated City Hall employees and compared the unvaccinated to drunk drivers.
Mayor Jerry Dyer said City Hall policy of testing unvaccinated employees, but not mandating vaccines itself, will not change. All employees and visitors will be required to wear a mask, regardless of vaccine status.
Dyer said the vaccine mandate issue has divided the city and nation.
“I’m not going to be the person that castigates our employees because they’ve chosen not to (get a vaccine). Now, I’m going to do everything in my power to keep employees and the community safe. If they’re not vaccinated, they’re going to test weekly. We’re mandating that,” Dyer said.
Dyer said the new policy will help determine how many employees are vaccinated — through mandatory testing — without directly asking.
“I think that’s the balance that we’re trying to achieve. And I’m hopeful you never have to get to that point where we have to force people to be vaccinated, but we are seeing that happen in other cities,” Dyer said.
Earlier this month, the Fresno City Council appropriated an additional $1 million in a contract with UCSF to conduct employee testing and tracing.
Dems Question City Employees’ Faithfulness
Dyer said mandating vaccines could lead to unintended consequences.
“We could suffer some ramifications that maybe we’re not prepared for. And that is a mass exodus of employees or perhaps turning a good employee into a bad employee. And so we have to think about all those things. So it’s much more than just taking a shot and maybe in time people will come to that point where they voluntarily do it. And I’m hopeful that that will come sooner than later,” Dyer said.
The Democratic Party wrote “Some city officials have threatened that if an official vaccine policy were put in place, too many city employees would choose to abandon their jobs. However, if an employee would resign over being asked to help the community, how can we trust that such an employee was ever performing faithfully as a public servant?”
Dyer disagreed with that assessment.
“Just because a person chooses not to get the vaccine, it doesn’t mean they’re not a dedicated city employee. I know a lot of dedicated employees, for whatever reason, have chosen not to get the vaccine. I’ve encouraged them to do so. I want them to do so. I was vaccinated. But really, it is their choice that they’ve made because it is their body. And I am hopeful that in time they’ll make the right decision,” Dyer told GV Wire.
Esparza’s Intersection of Party and Duty
Fresno City Councilman Nelson Esparza is in the intersection of both the city council and the Democratic Party — he is vice president of the latter. He declined to comment on the contents of the news release.
“My service to the public always comes first. I’ve tried to make that very clear to everybody. Work will always come before anything political or any political activities. That’s how I prioritize things. So, you know, obviously We’re in the middle of that kind of conversation right now between the council, Mayor and our partners in labor. So at this point, I don’t want to muddy those waters and any kind of way,” Esparza said.
Esparza said he did not see the party’s statement until reading about it in the media.
“They didn’t take the time to run that by me,” Esparza said.
Party Leader Defends Harsh Language
In the news release, the Democrats also compared the unvaccinated to drunk drivers.
“At this point, choosing to be unvaccinated is morally equivalent to drunk driving. If you make that choice, you might well skate by on luck and have nothing bad happen, but you could easily kill yourself or other people around you. Choosing to drive while drunk is a terrible offense, and we should begin looking at choosing to remain unvaccinated in the same light,” the party said.
Party spokesman David Rowell said it was “not an inapt comparison.”
“For reasons that defy reason, this issue has become politicized, but, you know, everybody got a polio vaccine and polio went away,” Rowell said.
He said childhood vaccines are mandatory to attend public school, and the history of military vaccines.
Rowell said the news release bemoaned the politicization of the vaccine issue.
“It’s this exaltation of my personal freedom over anybody else and the harm I might cause to them. My right to not have a piece of cloth on my face trumps your right to stay alive and not get covered because you’re not the boss of me?” Rowell said.
Rowell hopes it does not take a COVID outbreak to change Dyer’s mind.
“People come to work and they’re not vaccinated. Then there’s a real risk,” Rowell said.