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Wyoming’s majority legislature leadership vow to fight Biden administration vaccine mandates

Then-House Speaker Pro Tempore Albert Sommers chats during the start of the 2020 Wyoming Legislature. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City File)

CASPER, Wyo. — Wyoming’s leaders of the Legislature sent out a joint statement on Friday concerning the Biden administration’s proposed vaccine mandates, which were announced yesterday.

Senate President Dan Dockstader, Speaker of the House Eric Barlow, Senate Majority Leader Ogden Driskill, House Majority Leader Albert Sommers, Senate Vice President Larry Hicks, House Speaker Pro Tempore Mike Greear and House Majority Whip Jared Olsen, all signed on to the statement, said a release.

“We stand in strong support of Governor Gordon’s stance against a federal vaccine mandate.  Our republican form of government leaves decisions of this gravity to the states.  We believe the Biden Administration’s federal vaccine requirement is arbitrary and likely unconstitutional.  The Governor and the Attorney General are provided the tools through Wyoming Statute 9-14-102 to take legal action to prevent the enforcement of overreaching Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations such as the proposed vaccine mandate.  We are confident they will use that authority to good effect to protect the rights of Wyoming citizens.”

According to the New York Times, the constitutionality of vaccine mandates was settled by a 7-2 Supreme Court ruling in 1905:

The Constitution “does not import an absolute right in each person to be, at all times and in all circumstances, wholly freed from restraint,” Justice John Marshall Harlan, known for defending civil liberties, wrote. “Real liberty for all could not exist under the operation of a principle which recognizes the right of each individual person to use his own, whether in respect of his person or his property, regardless of the injury that may be done to others.”

On Thursday, Governor Gordon called the proposed mandates “an egregious example of big government overreach.”

Biden announced the new requirements in a Thursday afternoon address from the White House as part of a new “action plan” to address the latest rise in coronavirus cases and the stagnating pace of COVID-19 shots that has raised doubts among the public over his handling of the pandemic, said the Associated Press. 

The actions come as the Delta variant of COVID-19 spreads, specifically through states such as Wyoming with persistently low vaccination rates. Idaho hospitals are so full of COVID patients that healthcare is now being rationed.

Wyoming hospitals are also nearing capacity, health experts are warning.

As of Thursday, Wyoming was fewer than 15 COVID-19 patients away from reaching a new all-time high during the pandemic, according to numbers from the Wyoming Department of Health. There have been at least 189 COVID-19 patients in Wyoming hospitals every day so far in September. In September 2020, there were never more than 25. 

Just under 36 percent of Wyoming’s population is fully vaccinated, according to the WDH.

The Wyoming Department of Health provides COVID-19 case, variant, death, testing, hospital and vaccine data online. The department also shares information about how the data can be interpreted. COVID-19 safety recommendations are available from the CDC.