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One Week Ahead Of Bethel’s Vaccine Mandate Deadline, 15 City Employees Remain Unvaccinated

Olivia Ebertz

On Sept. 21, the City of Bethel held a second educational session for unvaccinated city employees to learn about the COVID-19 vaccine. With the mandate's deadline on the horizon, the unvaccinated minority are starting to decide whether they’ll quit, get fired, or get vaccinated. 


Dr. Coleman Cutchins led the Sept. 21 session. He’s a pharmacist and infectious disease specialist with the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, He gave unvaccinated city of Bethel employees a presentation about the safety, efficacy, and development of the vaccine. He also answered their questions. 

Some were technical. At several points, city employees requested that Cutchins draw illustrations of what happens to cells after getting a COVID-19 vaccine or the SARS-CoV-2 virus. His drawings of cells infected with the virus showed the virus exploding the cells. His drawings of vaccinated cells showed the mRNA vaccines building a harmless protein on cell walls to fight off COVID-19. 

This is the second such educational session provided by the City of Bethel since it announced its vaccine mandate for city workers on Sept. 17. The mandate is due to take effect on Sept. 27. Some employees have requested more time to learn about the vaccine and an extension of the policy, while some have said that they want to renegotiate the policy from the ground up. 

Since the city announced the mandate, one employee has resigned. Another employee, police officer Skyler Smith, said that he has received a religious exemption. He said that his religion is opposed to the vaccine’s testing on decades old aborted fetal cell lines. Dr. Cutchins said that while the vaccines were tested on these cell lines, the vaccines do not contain fetal cells. Cutchins also said that most food additives and medications that have been developed in the past 30 to 40 years have been tested using these cell lines. 

Smith said that he avoids all medications, and has signed an affidavit with the city saying he will never again take medications from this list initially used by Conway Regional Health Center in Conway, Arkansas. The list contains common medications that have been tested on fetal cell lines, including Tums, Benadryl, and Tylenol. 

“I try to use as much herbalistic medicine as possible,” said Smith. 

The City of Bethel’s human resources manager said that he is confident that he can take Smith at his word. 

Another employee who attended both educational sessions said that he feels like he understands more about the vaccine now, but he still won’t take it. 

“'Cause I still love my wife. She'll leave me or I gotta leave her,” said Jimmy Boan. 

Boan said that he and his wife discussed it the night prior.

“Wife. Job. Forget about the job, I'll keep the wife,” said Boan. 

Bones has been maintaining Bethel’s streets and roads for 14 years. He just turned 62 years old, and he won’t be able to keep any city benefits if he quits or is fired.

“For the tier I am, no. I’ll just, more or less, take my money and run,” said Boan. 

Boan said that he’s not the type to just sit around, so he’ll have to look for another job. 

Bethel City Manager Pete Williams, who authored and signed the mandate, said that he does not intend to alter the mandate or its deadline. Williams said that the city will have a better idea of how many employees it will be retaining on Sept. 24. Eighty-five percent of the city's employees are already vaccinated.


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