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Benton County sheriff says he won't require employees to get vaccinated

by NWA Democrat-Gazette | September 15, 2021 at 7:00 a.m.
FILE -- Benton County Sheriff Shawn Holloway speaks Thursday, June 18, 2020, during a press conference about positive covid-19 cases among the jail population at the Benton County Jail in Bentonville. Go to nwaonline.com/200619Daily/ to see more photos. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Ben Goff)

BENTONVILLE -- Benton County Sheriff Shawn Holloway announced Tuesday he would not force his employees to get vaccinated against covid-19.

"I do not have an issue with someone getting a vaccine or choosing not to get a vaccine," Holloway said in a news release. "I feel this decision is the individual's choice and constitutional right to decide."

Holloway said he opposes vaccination mandates just like he opposes mask mandates, calling them "clear violations of our constitutional rights."

He added he "will not be enforcing these unconstitutional vaccine mandates on our great citizens of Benton County to steal their freedom of choice," according to the release.

"We are now facing a new mandate in our community with vaccine mandates being announced recently," Holloway said, although he did not identify to which mandates he was referring.

[POLL: Tell us what do you think about the Sheriff's statement: nwaonline.com/915vaccinemandate/]

President Joe Biden last week announced new covid vaccine mandates designed to affect tens of millions of Americans, including an order to all businesses with more than 100 employees to require their workers to be inoculated or face weekly testing.

However, there are no criminal penalties associated with any vaccination mandates that have been proposed.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Tuesday he would support efforts to overturn Biden's proposal.

The Benton County Sheriff's Office employs nearly 300 people, according to the office's website.

Holloway's news release was posted to the Sheriff's Office's Facebook page on Tuesday afternoon. Within six hours, the post had drawn more than 700 comments -- many expressing support of Holloway's statement, while others criticized it.

Benton County Judge Barry Moehring said Friday he had no plans for a vaccination mandate for county employees. Moehring said the county has and will continue to "strongly encourage" employees who feel comfortable about the vaccines to get vaccinated and to urge those with questions to consult their doctors.

Washington County likewise will not require county employees be vaccinated for covid-19, nor will it require any proof of negative covid tests, Washington County Judge Joseph Wood announced last week.

On Monday, Northwest Arkansas hospitals collectively were caring for 94 hospitalized covid-19 patients, according to Martine Pollard, a spokeswoman for Mercy Hospital who released a joint statement with the largest health care providers in the region. The all-time high for the region was 173, set Aug. 11.

There were 110 intensive care unit beds in use supporting patients' needs Monday -- nine fewer than were in use Friday and 30 fewer than the all-time high of 140 on Sept. 8. This includes both covid-19 beds and beds used for other medical needs.

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