Woman questions July 4 concert rules

Hundreds of people gather on the lawn at Thompson Park for the annual July Fourth concert in July 2018. Sydney Schaefer/Watertown Daily Times

WATERTOWN — A local woman is accusing the city of discriminating against her for requiring that she prove she was vaccinated for the coronavirus before she can enter the Fourth of July concert at Thompson Park.

Genie Weaver, who has residences in Jefferson and Lewis counties, told City Council on Monday night that she shouldn’t have to show proof that she received the COVID-19 vaccine or that she had a negative test for the virus to attend the Concert in the Park. The festivities this year would be held on July 1.

“To me, it’s not public information,” she said, adding it violates her rights and others with disabilities. “Is it OK to discriminate?”

She said she cannot get the vaccine because of health issues associated with her immune system and has had a reaction to vaccines, she told council members. She understands that the concert must follow rules on people wearing masks and social distancing, but she should not have to show proof of the vaccine, she said.

While she knows the requirement is a state guideline, the city should do something about the issue to help her and others.

“Something should be done for what’s right,” she said.

Two other people at Monday’s meeting also expressed the same concerns about the vaccines. City Council candidate Jason Traynor agreed with Ms. Weaver.

Donnie Lee Barrigar, who got into legal trouble for taking down a Gay Pride flag in front of City Hall last June, said he will not follow the requirement.

“What are you going to do? Are you going to put me in jail?” he asked council.

Two weeks ago, Mayor Jeffrey M. Smith announced that the city was putting together the Fourth of July concert at the park, but the event would have to follow state COVID-19 guidelines for outside events.

Those attending the concert can either walk into the park at designated entry points or be shuttled in by bus. But they’ll have to show they received the vaccine or recently tested negative for the virus.

Since the announcement for the concert, the city has received some other backlash about requiring proof of vaccines.

On Monday night, Mayor Smith made it clear he’s not for requiring it either, but the city has no choice.

“They’re the governor’s regulations,” he said. “I do not agree with them. I do not like them.”

It’s a state requirement, and the state would retaliate if the city didn’t follow the restrictions, he said, adding he fears the state would reduce state aid to the city.

“We don’t want the cancel culture this summer of not having an event,” he said. “In order to have an event, we have to follow these guidelines.”

The city hopes that the state will drop some of the guidelines by the time of the concert, as COVID-19 cases drop and more vaccines are given.

For instance, the capacity of outdoor events was recently increased from 20% to 33%, even though that change won’t affect the concert, the mayor said.

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(2) comments


So every single child that is not eligible to be vaccinated will be required to show proof of a negative covid test? There are still breakthrough cases that can occur in vaccinated people if they are exposed. Will they provide tests? Rapid tests are not a reliable form of testing so every child will have to be tested within 72 hours of the fireworks? And even after all this all attendees will still be required to wear masks at this outdoor event?

L Racine

Society has many examples of consequences for people who choose not to honor basic social rules for the common well-being of the rest of the population. For example, you cannot go into a grocery store or restaurant without shoes or a shirt. Another example is you are not allowed to smoke in buildings public places etc., these rules are for the well-being of other people.

I support the city following the state rules. Why should the well-being of my child be endangered because someone refuses to be vaccinated or wear a mask or follow simple rules?

I choose not to bring my children to events like this because of people who could not care less if they expose them to Covid.

It is about time that people who refuse to be vaccinated be held responsible and face consequences (exclusion in this case) for their choices.

Yes, you are free to choose not to be vaccinated, but there are consequences. Why should the those who behave responsibly have to suffer for your selfish and I dare say narcissistic choices.

Genie Weaver states she has “health issues associated with her immune system”. Perhaps attending a public event during a global pandemic is not in her best interest nor in the best interest of the other people in her near proximity? But this is the type of judgement I would expect for those of this “ilk”.

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