As potential mandates loom, locals in Lander held protest over weekend

(Lander, WY) – On Saturday, November 20th, a group of individuals in Lander held a mandate protest at Centennial Park, gathering on the one hundred block of Main Street in support of the freedom of choice concerning vaccinations.

Mandate protest. County 10 photo.

“We come to stand for our freedoms, to remind others that our rights come from God to be protected by government, not the other way around,” stated Sarah Penn, one of the event organizers. “Our freedom of choice is being shunned, our freedom of religion is being scoffed at, our medical freedom is being assaulted.”

“Today we showed up, to stand for our God-given rights,” Penn continued.

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Mandate protest. County 10 photo.
Mandate protest. County 10 photo.
Mandate protest. County 10 photo.
Mandate protest. County 10 photo.

The protest was initially formed in response to policies issued from the Biden Administration, which would have required employers with 100 or more employees to ensure each of their workers is fully vaccinated, or tests for COVID-19 on at least a weekly basis, as per Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) guidelines.

(It should be noted that on November 12th, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit later granted a motion that OSHA “take no steps to implement or enforce” the ETS “until further court order.”)

Those policies also require that healthcare workers at facilities participating in Medicare and Medicaid are fully vaccinated, as per guidelines from Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) at the Department of Health and Human Services.

Vaccinations are also required for Federal employees, according to an Executive Order issued on September 9th.

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On a state level, Governor Gordon has announced intentions to oppose the mandates, specifically against the mandates for Wyoming healthcare workers.

Despite her opposition to the mandates, Wyoming State Superintendent Jillian Balow and the Wyoming Department of Education (WDE) sent the following message to Superintendent’s across the state, commenting that Wyoming school districts should “plan for compliance”:

Dear Superintendents,

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The U.S. Department of Labor announced the OSHA Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) for public inspection on the Federal Register 2021-23643.pdf (federalregister.gov).

Wyoming school districts are included in the ETS, which is effective immediately – school districts should plan for compliance. 

Why Wyoming? Wyoming has an OSHA-approved state plan along with 25 other states plus two territories.  

Among requirements, employers must:

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  • Provide paid time to workers to get vaccinated and to allow for paid leave to recover from any side effects.
  • Determine the vaccination status of each employee, obtain acceptable proof of vaccination status from vaccinated employees and maintain records and a roster of each employee’s vaccination status.
  • Require employees to provide prompt notice when they test positive for COVID-19 or receive a COVID-19 diagnosis. Employers must then remove the employee from the workplace, regardless of vaccination status; employers must not allow them to return to work until they meet required criteria.
  • Ensure each worker who is not fully vaccinated is tested for COVID-19 at least weekly (if the worker is in the workplace at least once a week) or within 7 days before returning to work (if the worker is away from the workplace for a week or longer).
  • Ensure that, in most circumstances, each employee who has not been fully vaccinated wears a face covering when indoors or when occupying a vehicle with another person for work purposes.
  • Comply with most requirements within 30 days of publication and with testing requirements within 60 days of publication.

After the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit decision stating OSHA “take no steps to implement or enforce” the ETS “until further court order,” Balow posted the following message on the WDE website:

“Messaging and direction from the federal government changes frequently but I am doing my best to keep you apprised of what I learn from the state and federal authorities in real time.

I am opposed to the federal government imposing these mandates and am happy to see that not only did the federal 5th Circuit Court of Appeals put a stay in place, now the federal OSHA has stated it will stop enforcing the mandate.

But the White House and the U.S. Department of Education still appear to be pushing forward. We will continue to follow the lead of Governor Gordon and Attorney General Hill to sort through the legal morass.”

On a local Fremont County level, those opposed to mandates have gotten firsthand experience with job loss due to vaccine mandate non-adherence after Fremont County School District (FCSD) #21 Fort Washakie schools, dismissed seven at-will employees from their positions at the October 6th School Board meeting.

Those employees were dismissed after not adhering to the District vaccination mandate that followed the mandate issued by the Wind River Inter-Tribal Council (WRITC).

The dismissed employees were all given the opportunity to file for religious or medical exemption, but each were ultimately denied after submitting requests.

To address the decision, FCSD #21 Superintendent Deb Smith later sent the following letter to staff and parents, which was then posted to the district webpage on October 22nd:

h/t FCSD #21 image.

Since obtaining initial reports of the dismissals, County 10 reached out to the FCSD #21 School Board and Superintendent, representatives of the WRITC, local medical providers, and the WDE, but received no comment from the mentioned parties.

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