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Gordon celebrates pause on Biden vaccine mandate as win for rural Wyoming healthcare amid staffing challenges

Governor Mark Gordon talks during a protest against coronavirus shutdowns at the State Capitol Building in Cheyenne on April 20, 2020. (John Roedel, CapCity)

CASPER, Wyo. — Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon’s office on Monday claimed some credit for the governor and for Wyoming Attorney General Bridget Hill in achieving a pause in the enforcement of a federal vaccine mandate on healthcare workers issued by the administration of President Joe Biden.

A federal judge on Monday issued a preliminary injunction halting the enforcement in Wyoming and nine other states of a rule from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services mandating healthcare workers get vaccinated against COVID-19. That injunction was issued after Wyoming joined Alaska, Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota and South Dakota in a lawsuit challenging the vaccine mandate.

“This is welcome news for Wyoming’s rural healthcare facilities, which are already facing staffing challenges without additional unconstitutional burdens being placed on their employees by the federal government,” Gordon said in Monday’s press release from his office. “Healthcare employees should not be forced to choose between vaccination and termination.” 

The proposed vaccine mandate would require most employees, volunteers and contractors working at healthcare facilities that receive Medicaid or Medicare funding to get a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by December 6.

“In its ruling, the court agreed to preliminarily enjoin implementation and enforcement of the rule because arguments made by Wyoming and a coalition of other states have a likelihood of success on the merits,” Gordon’s office said. “Wyoming and the coalition have argued that CMS does not have authority to issue the mandate, and that it would impact the ability of healthcare facilities to effectively care for patients.”

Gordon’s office noted that the preliminary injunction applies only within the ten states that filed the lawsuit and that the court case is not over. A copy of the preliminary injunction is available online.

“The governor and attorney general will continue their efforts to challenge the mandate through this lawsuit,” Gordon’s office said.

Wyoming is also challenging other COVID-19 vaccine mandates issued by the Biden administration. Gordon’s office noted that the state has filed a lawsuit challenging a vaccine mandate on federal contractors and federally contracted employees: “Wyoming is currently awaiting a ruling on a request for a temporary injunction in the case.”

Wyoming also filed a “second lawsuit to halt the Occupational Safety and Health Administration emergency temporary standard which mandates vaccines on employees of private Wyoming businesses with over 100 employees. This also resulted in a pause on the implementation of the ETS.”