Gordon says state ready to challenge vaccine mandate
CASPER — Wyoming is prepared to challenge a federal vaccine mandate in court, Gov. Mark Gordon declared in a statement Thursday.
President Joe Biden Thursday announced sweeping new policies that require employers with more than 100 workers to vaccinate their staff, or test the unvaccinated for COVID-19 on a weekly basis.
“We’ve been patient. But our patience is wearing thin, and your refusal has cost all of us,” Biden said at a press briefing Thursday. The unvaccinated minority, the president said, “can cause a lot of damage, and they are.”
The new mandate is authorized by an executive order. Biden also signed an order requiring all federal employees and contractors to be vaccinated as well.
Gordon called the policy an “egregious example of big government overreach” in a written statement shared by his office Thursday.
“I have asked the Attorney General to stand prepared to take all actions to oppose this administration’s unconstitutional overreach of executive power. It has no place in America. Not now, and not ever,” Gordon added.
Gordon has pushed back on vaccine mandates, vowing that no such policy will come from his office. He issued an executive order earlier this year declaring no state agency or facility would be allowed to require “vaccine passports.”
The governor has been vaccinated against COVID-19, as has his wife — a fact he has noted in a handful of press releases and public appearances. He he has also stressed whether a person gets the shots or not is an “intensely personal” decision.
It’s not immediately clear what impact Biden’s new policies will have on a piece of draft legislation meant to prohibit Wyoming businesses from requiring vaccinations.
A bill proposal requiring employers to treat unvaccinated staff like those with a disability by offering “reasonable accommodations” like those outlined in the Americans with Disabilities Act passed Wyoming’s Labor, Health and Social Services Committee in June.
COVID-19 is surging in Wyoming, with hospitalizations and active cases near the state’s winter peak.
More than 230 people were hospitalized statewide Wednesday and more than 4,000 infections were considered active.
At the height of the the last surge in late November, 247 people were being treated for the virus in Wyoming hospitals and active cases neared 12,000 — roughly 2 percent of the state. At that time, more than a dozen counties implemented local mask requirements. Shortly after Gordon announced a statewide mandate.
State and local health officials have since credited that mandate with the plunge in infections that followed. By March, Wyoming’s mask order was lifted, as restrictions on gatherings and public spaces were limited and eventually dissolved as well.
Gordon has said his office will not implement more mandates or lockdowns, while his state health officer and federal officials are encouraging everyone to mask up in areas with moderate to high virus transmission as a more contagious variant spreads.
Wyoming is now tied for having the lowest proportion of fully and partially vaccinated residents in the nation.
Roughly 36 percent of the state is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, and about 245,000 people have received at least one dose of a vaccine.