Rock Haven

If Rock County Board members thought they were striking a compromise to preserve the safety of Rock Haven residents while satisfying the vaccination concerns of Rock Haven employees, they were wrong.

By allowing exemptions to an employee COVID-19 vaccination requirement for medical or “bona fide” religious reasons, the county board blew a hole through any protections nursing home administrators were trying to give residents.

To residents, allowing one unvaccinated employee to work in the facility is effectively no different from allowing all employees to skip vaccination. Residents won’t know which employees are vaccinated and which aren’t. And even if they did, they wouldn’t get to choose which workers bring them their meals, change their sheets or help them into their wheelchairs.

In a Dec. 23 memo, county administrators told Rock Haven employees they need to get a COVID-19 vaccine or face layoff. The original mandate had no exemptions because Rock Haven officials considered the risk of unvaccinated staff being in contact with Rock Haven residents to be “unreasonable.”

The policy led to Rock Haven laying off five employees.

Other Rock Haven employees took their concerns to the Rock County Board, which debated the issue for five hours Jan. 28 before deciding to offer exemptions. Rock Haven administrators now must allow accommodations for staff who are pregnant or have other valid health concerns or religious objections to the vaccine under the Americans with Disabilities, Civil Rights or Pregnancy Discrimination acts.

Supervisor Stephanie Aegerter during the meeting called the exemptions a “compromise” that would serve both the Rock Haven staff and the 98 residents of the long-term nursing facility.

She is wrong. It’s not a compromise. Rock Haven residents end up with no protection.

If you agree members of our community most vulnerable to COVID-19 should have extra protections against the disease, then the position of Rock Haven administrators makes some sense.

Rock Haven workers are in daily, intimate contact with those whose lives would be in serious danger if they contract COVID-19.

Apparently, many Rock Haven employees don’t see the vaccination exemptions as a compromise, either.

As of this week, about 24 employees have been laid off, quit or retired in response to the vaccination policy.

Rock Haven administrators were getting lots of heat for their vaccination policy, but remarkably the county board with its action Jan. 28 managed to make the situation worse. Not only do the exemptions not satisfy employees, they erase protections the policy provided.

That’s a lose-lose scenario.