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Sep. 20—The Cherokee County sheriff is now one of many sheriffs to issue a statement saying he will not mandate the COVID-19 vaccine despite President Joe Biden's recent mandate.
On Sept. 20, Sheriff Jason Chennault said he hadn't felt the need to issue a public statement regarding his stance on the vaccine, but it's something he's been asked about recently.
"I will not enforce my employees to get vaccinated. I will not enforce the public to get vaccinated. I've been asked that several times and my answer has always been no throughout the whole thing," said Chennault.
Biden announced on Sept. 9, that the Department of Labor was developing an emergency rule that would require companies with 100 or more employees to ensure all of its workforce is vaccinated for COVID-19, or show a negative test at least once a week.
Biden signed an executive order requiring all government employees to be vaccinated, with no option of being weekly tested to opt out. The president also announced that he would require over 17 million health care employees, who work at facilities that receive Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement, to be vaccinated.
Stephens County Sheriff Wayne McKinney was the first to announce that he would not require his office to be vaccinated. On Sept. 12, McKinney said his first and foremost duty as a law enforcement officer is to support and defend the Constitution of the U.S., and the Constitution of the state of Oklahoma.
"It is in that defense and the defense of individual liberty, that the Stephens County Sheriff's Office has not, and will not mandate the COVID vaccine for any of our employees as long as I'm the sheriff," McKinney said.
Haskell County Sheriff Tim Turner then issued a statement echoing McKinney a day later.
"I am not pro-vaccine, nor anti-vaccine. I am pro-freedom for each person's ability and responsibility to decide for themselves," Turner said. "I truly believe as an American with freedom, if we start mandating our employees to get vaccinated, then we're taking that freedom away from them."
Turner himself spent nine days in the ICU last year when he got COVID, and his undersheriff was out for 31 days.
Both Turner and Chennault are fully-vaccinated and they said they plan to get the booster shot in the near future.
"I support the vaccine and I'm vaccinated. We understand what the virus is doing and we understand that we're seeing people die who are unvaccinated, but I believe that's a choice and that's not something we make somebody do," Turner said.
Chennault said he received his first dose of the vaccine back in January, and that it was a decision he took a lot of time to contemplate.
"I thought long and hard about it. I consulted my doctor and she — without hesitation — told me I needed to," Chennault said. "I think it's a personal choice and I don't think it should be forced on anyone."
Sheriff Mark Berry, of the Delaware County Sheriff's Office, released a statement Sept. 18, saying he would not being enforcement the vaccine on his employees.
As of Sept. 20, the state reported 3,990,068 doses of vaccine have been administered, with 1,808,630 series complete. Residents can register online at vaccinate.oklahoma.gov to receive a notification when they are eligible to schedule a vaccine appointment, or visit vaccinefinder.org. For more information, visit https://oklahoma.gov/covid19.html.