Santa Ana Gazette-Extra:
On the same day that Orange County recorded some of its most positive coronavirus statistics to date — nearing the least restrictive yellow tier in the state’s reopening blueprint — hundreds of protesters gathered to blast the Board of Supervisors for a proposal to create “vaccine passports,” or digital records that document COVID-19 vaccination status.
The public backlash began in April after the county announced plans to launch a pilot program for credentialing. Almost immediately, a vocal group of opponents expressed concern that the digital records would be used to “track” people and reveal private healthcare information. Opponents also said it would allow the county to favor residents who chose to get vaccinated.
But inside the meeting hall Tuesday, tensions reached a boiling point after Chairman Andrew Do proposed tabling the plan in an attempt to remove distractions and refocus on the county’s vaccination efforts.
The county on Tuesday moved within striking distance of the state’s most lenient tier of economic reopenings, posting its first of a required two weeks of qualifying data needed to advance. Orange County has been in the orange, or moderate tier, since March 29.
By noon, at least 580 people had queued up to offer public comment during the county meeting, including some from Los Angeles. Each was given 30 seconds to speak, and the overwhelming majority used the opportunity to urge county officials to reject the passport. Some also declared the pandemic a hoax.
“I will not be bullied, coerced, harassed in any way, shape or form … into participating into a massive human experiment in order to fit in,” said one woman, who did not provide her name.
Another speaker cited county data, arguing that the majority of Orange County residents who haven’t yet been vaccinated are against vaccines and the use of passports.
“It’s not about availability, it’s about the legal right of choice,” she said. “I’m a millennial in my prime who dreams of having a family, and I’m terrified to bring children into a world that violates their conscience and disrespects their freedom as citizens of the United States of America.”
Images posted to social media showed that word of Tuesday’s protest had been circulating online and through fliers describing Orange County as “the battleground of the nation.” One resident, Leigh Dundas, took to YouTube to encourage people to show up to the Board of Supervisors’ meeting in droves.
“I cannot underscore enough: This is the hill we die on,” she said. “We cannot allow the people of America to be segregated or to be made prisoners in their own homes.”
One protester Tuesday described the crowd as “patriots,” and said he was there to make it clear that “America in general is not going to be OK with this.”
Behind him, scores of people chanted and waved signs and American flags. Elsewhere, a pop-up tent offered Donald Trump merchandise for sale.