BENTON COUNTY, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) —Benton County Sheriff Shawn Holloway will not require employees of the Benton County Sheriff’s Office to get vaccinated against COVID-19, according to a press release issued on Tuesday.
The sheriff’s announcement comes on the heels of President Joe Biden’s new orders issued last Thursday requiring employers with more than 100 workers to mandate shots against COVID-19 or offer weekly testing.
“The issue with these forced mandates, they’re clear violations of our constitutional rights,” Holloway said.
Holloway said he also opposed the mask mandates when they were announced and stated at the time that he would not enforce them.
“We are now facing a new mandate in our community with vaccine mandates being announced recently,” he said in Tuesday’s release. “I do not have an issue with someone getting a vaccine or choosing not to get a vaccine. I feel this is an individual’s choice and constitutional right to decide. I will not be forcing any employees of the Benton County Sheriff’s Office to be vaccinated.”
Holloway said he also wouldn’t enforce the vaccine mandate on Benton County citizens “to steal their freedom of choice.”
Arkansas reported 646 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday and 31 additional deaths due to the virus, pushing the state’s total death toll to 7,298.
Over the last week, Arkansas averaged 32.5 new deaths each day from the virus.
In Governor Asa Hutchinson’s weekly press conference, he said he does not agree with broad federal mandates like these and fears this will deter even more Arkansans from getting vaccinated.
“I do not support a broad federal mandate for businesses with over 100 employees,” Hutchinson said. “This is not consistent with historical use of federal authority in public health matters.”
Hutchinson and Sheriff Holloway’s stance is supported by several elected officials in Benton County, including Justices of the Peace Joseph Bollinger and Brian Armas.
“I think we have to separate the difference of being anti-vaccine and anti-mandate and I think Sheriff Holloway did a great job in his letter of saying, ‘Look, we’re not talking about vaccines or the efficacy of vaccines or masking we’re talking about government overreach,” Armas said.
However, President Joe Biden said it’s elected officials like these keeping America from making strides against COVID-19.
“What makes it incredibly more frustrating is we have the tools to combat COVID-19 and a distinct minority of Americans supported by a distinct minority of elected officials are keeping us from turning the corner.”