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Vax-Spooked Cops Threaten to Plunge Isolated City Into Chaos

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As the Delta variant began ravaging Alaska this summer, James Harris, the human resources manager of the remote city of Bethel, began to panic. Getting to the city of 6,000 requires a plane or a boat—when the rivers aren’t frozen, that is. And when a patient needs critical care for COVID-19 in Bethel, they have to get flown an hour away to Anchorage and pray for a bed.

Alaska currently leads the United States in new coronavirus cases per-capita and is near the top of the pack in hospitalizations and deaths, according to the New York Times. In the Yukon–Kuskokwim Delta region of the state, the Bethel area is the most populous and far and away the leader in new cases, according to recent data. Meanwhile, area medical officials are issuing dire warnings about the lack of bed space and a crush of unvaccinated COVID patients forcing them to ration care for everyone.

“The city had no choice,” Harris told The Daily Beast. “We had to react.”

To protect the small city and its precious health resources, Bethel officials put in place a mandate two weeks ago that says city employees must get vaccinated by Sept. 27 if they want to keep their jobs. But despite a months-long campaign to sell holdouts on the safe and effective shots, Harris said, a cadre of 15 unvaccinated employees that includes half of the city’s 16-man police department remain fiercely opposed to getting one.

Some of those city employees seem to be leaning toward getting shots, Harris and Bethel city manager Peter Williams told The Daily Beast. But they added that unvaxxed police officers have been far more conspiratorial since the beginning of their long push for vaccinations among city employees. Echoing discredited conspiracies common among anti-vaxxers, they noted, cops have suggested vaccines might be the precursor to the mark of the beast warned about in the Bible—or part of a vast plot to implant microchips in citizens that Joe Biden is somehow in on.

“Joe Biden bought the FDA off. These are things I actually heard,” Harris said.

As the deadline for their new policy approaches, the city leaders said, the remaining unvaxxed officers have only doubled down. “I don’t think they want to hear any more information about why the vaccine is good,” Williams said. “They’ve already staked out their position.”

Opposition to the vaccine from police in Bethel is endemic of opposition the vaccine has seen from police departments across the country. Many officers have refused vaccine mandates, filed unsuccessful lawsuits, and decried the measures as unconstitutional.

But in Bethel, some say police have gone a step further, dangling the possibility of increased violence over remote residents’ heads if the city were to force half of the police force out of the job—even as officials fear more COVID cases could spark a special kind of chaos.

Among other highlights, police chief Richard Simmons baldly told the Anchorage Daily News earlier this week that the small city was “one of the most violent communities in the nation” and needed every one of its officers.

Skyler Smith, a Bethel police officer opposed to the vaccine mandate, told The Daily Beast........

© The Daily Beast

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