ENCINITAS, Calif. – Anti-vaccine mandate activists rallied Wednesday in a North County community to support a handful of first responders who have lost jobs for failing to comply with mandates.
The divisive debate on vaccine mandates implemented to stem the tide of the COVID-19 pandemic has been tough on city and county officials in the past year. Activists have continuously berated local politicians and public health officials with some officials even enduring racist and hateful rhetoric from one man at a November meeting of the San Diego County Board of Supervisors.
But on Wednesday, activists say the fight has been tough on them as well.
“There is a division all throughout the country and that is a goal for I don’t know who,” said Patti Strottlemeyer, a nurse who no longer works in a local hospital system and is opposed to mandates, “but this is a goal, for us to be divided. It’s very, very unfortunate.”
Another activist told FOX 5 she recently pushed back on wearing a mask at the Encinitas Library.
“They wanted me to either leave or to put a mask on,” anti-mask and vaccine mandate activist Andy Schulgasser said. “I said, ‘Well, you know, call the police and they’ll set you straight on the law.’ And sadly, the police came.”
Declining to leave or to give in to wearing a face covering, Schulgasser said she stood her ground.
“They didn’t want to hear anything we had to say and then finally they said, ‘That’s it. We’re taking you in,’” she said. “They said we’re arresting you for, I think, trespassing. They handcuffed me and brought me into the sheriff’s office.”
In California, a statewide mask mandate was implemented last month, making mask-wearing mandatory in all indoor public settings in the state regardless of vaccination status. It was set to expire Jan. 15 but state public health officials extended it into February as infections and hospitalizations spiked amid the spread of the highly contagious omicron COVID-19 variant.
More than 2.81 million San Diegans — around 89.4% of those eligible — have received at least one dose of the vaccine and 2.49 million — or 79% – – are fully vaccinated. To date, 906,615 San Diegans have received vaccine booster shots.
The CDC recommends a Pfizer or Moderna booster shot five months after the second dose. A Johnson & Johnson booster is recommended two months after the second dose. Pfizer boosters have been approved for everyone 12 years and older.
Moderna and Johnson & Johnson boosters are only available for adults 18 years and older.
But as more mandates are rolled out by local governments and private businesses, activists say they’ve struggled with family members who support masks and vaccinations. They said they’ve felt isolated from family, but that the issue is too important to them.
“If you only have two choices to heal or for this to be done is wear a mask and get a shot?” activist Consuelo Henkin said. “Come on. You gotta wake up.”
Click or tap here to see no-cost COVID-19 testing sites in San Diego County. Vaccination locations in the county are available here and through the federal government’s vaccination website, vaccines.gov.
City News Service contributed to this story.
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