Supporters turn out for Spokane County paramedic who may lose job over COVID-19 vaccine
Sept. 28, 2021 Updated Tue., Sept. 28, 2021 at 10:12 p.m.
Cory Miles will lose his job as a paramedic if Spokane County Fire District 8 commissioners do not provide accommodations for his religious exemption to the COVID-19 vaccine.
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee’s vaccine mandate requires most health and long-term care providers to be fully vaccinated by Oct. 18 as a condition of employment. Employers will need to verify vaccination status of all employees. Certain religious and medical exemptions are allowed, but accommodations must be made for those exemptions.
More than 30 people spoke in support of Miles on Tuesday night at a commissioners special meeting to try to ensure the paramedic continues working in the career he said he loves.
“This is not just my job on the line,” Miles said with his wife and two young daughters at his side. “This is my career, my passion and the means by which I provide for my family.”
Miles did not specify what religious beliefs make him opposed to the vaccine.
The commissioners left the room twice for executive sessions during the roughly two-hour meeting. They did not come to a decision Tuesday night regarding Miles.
Commissioner Greg Hesse said they will meet with their legal team before making a decision.
“There’s more to it than meets the eye. Trust me,” Hesse said.
Miles said the district approved his exemption, but then told him it could not provide reasonable accommodations to allow him to continue to work while unvaccinated.
He said, to his knowledge, no one in his fire district has transmitted COVID-19 to patients or the public while on duty. Miles said he has not tested positive for COVID-19 throughout the pandemic, meaning the safety precautions and personal protective equipment he has used on the job has worked.
“How is it that after a year and eight months of staying healthy, all of a sudden on Oct. 18 I will suddenly be unsafe to my patients, to my co-workers and myself as well as a burden to the fire district?” Miles said.
About 50 residents, firefighters and others filled the meeting room at Fire Station 82 in Valleyford Tuesday. About 18 others stood in the parking lot and some attended virtually.
The more than 30 who spoke in support of Miles said he was a great man and paramedic, and worried the already understaffed district could not afford to lose a paramedic. They said accommodations can and should be made to allow him to continue to work. Each person who spoke received applause after their remarks.
“This is a slap in the face that we ask Cory and all the other firefighters in this district from day one to step up and take this virus on and now you’re going to kick him out and fire him,” said Kasey Austin, a Spokane Fire Department lieutenant.
Steve Bailey said Miles has diligently followed policies and procedures and has provided high-quality care to residents of the district.
“I would have no problem working alongside Cory on the fire truck any day of the week – past, present or future,” Bailey said. “He is the guy I would pick to treat my wife or my son if I was at the fire station and couldn’t do so myself.”
District Fire Chief Lonnie Rash said after the meeting he is unsure when the commissioners will come to a decision.
He said during the meeting that of the 48 full-time employees in the district, six have not provided proof of vaccination.
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