Anti-vaccine requisition committee meeting in Casper to protest warrants

An anti-vaccine campaigner holds a sign during a protest outside a Joint Labor, Health and Human Services Committee meeting in Casper on September 16, 2021. (Nick Reynolds / WyoFile)

September 20, 2021 by Nick reynolds, WyoFile

An activist group that included healthcare workers requisitioned a meeting of the Wyoming Legislature’s Joint Committee on Labor, Health and Human Services in Casper last Thursday to demand legislative action against COVID-vaccination requirements. 19 in state medical institutions.

After the meeting, nearly 80 people gathered outside to demonstrate against the vaccination warrants.

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Although vaccinations or COVID-19 mandates were not on the labor committee’s agenda, activists from as far away as Gillette and Worland took several hours from the meeting to voice concerns about vaccination requirements in the workplace, particularly at Banner Health facilities in Worland and Casper. Phoenix-based healthcare provider has made employee vaccinations mandatory at all of its facilities nationwide July 20, citing the increasing prevalence of the more contagious delta variant and disproportionately high hospitalization rates among unvaccinated COVID-19 patients.

Banner did not immediately return a request for comment.

The committee had advanced legislation limit employers’ ability to mandate vaccinations at its June meeting.

The presence of the group, which included employees from Wyoming Medical Center, naturopaths and former state lawmaker and pastor Scott Clem, seemed to surprise committee members. However, members of the activist group, Wyoming Medical Freedom Advocates, told WyoFile they were in attendance at the request of the committee member, Representative Pepper Ottman (R-Riverton), who praised them for their courage in speak during the meeting.

“We want people to know that they are not alone,” said Chandra Wagner, an organizer for the group, who said she quit her job as a nurse at Wyoming Medical Center because of her vaccine needs. .

Not on the agenda

The meeting was to begin with a discussion of Wyoming’s aging population and a review of several laws to meet its needs. Before it started, however, the committee allowed four medical professionals – including an intensive care nurse, an anesthesiologist and a dentist – to come forward. They had come to express their concerns about the vaccination warrants issued in recent weeks by health care providers and President Joe Biden.

After their presentation, other activists – mostly current and former medical staff – took to the podium to echo these concerns. The hours of discussion delayed most of the committee’s agenda for the day.

Wyoming Senator Anthony Bouchard (R-Cheyenne) addresses protesters after a Joint Committee on Labor, Health and Human Services meeting in Casper on September 16, 2021 (Nick Reynolds / WyoFile)

Some said the vaccination mandate created an environment of “tension and hostility” between those who had been vaccinated and those who had not. Others have expressed fears about the possibility of being sacked for refusing to be vaccinated or that some professionals may leave the field, one of them calling hospital administrators “fascists” . Others reiterated that the COVID-19 vaccine has claimed thousands of lives and lamented the lack of access to veterinary dewormer Ivermectin, which has not been approved by the FDA to treat the virus.

One person to testify, Gillette’s medical assistant, Alison Brady, claims there were an equal number of COVID-19 vaccinated patients on ventilators and unvaccinated patients at the Cheyenne Regional Medical Center, a fact refuted by the hospital statistics. (Only 15% of CRMC ventilator patients were vaccinated on Friday, according to hospital CEO Timothy Thornell.)

At a rally after the meeting, Senator Troy McKeown (R-Gillette) told attendees to “stay strong” and not to get the shot. Other lawmakers urged participants to challenge hospitals in desperate need of staff amid the state’s current shortage of medical staff.

“Get them fired,” Rep. Bob Wharff (R-Evanston) told attendees.

While staff at the Wyoming Hospital Association said staffing issues persisted long before the pandemic, WHA officials acknowledged that COVID-19 vaccination mandates played a role in recent staff shortages in statewide.

Opposition to warrant

The group’s participation was part of a growing movement against vaccination warrants that includes Governor Mark Gordon and members of the Wyoming legislature.

President Joe Biden announced a mandate on September 9 that would require vaccines or regular testing for companies with 100 or more employees. Following the announcement, Gordon joined with other Republican governors in an attempt to defeat the rule and announced that there may be a special legislative session as early as October to address the issue.

Groups like WMFA handed out fliers around Casper encouraging opponents to rally against the vaccines, and protests were held from Worland to Cheyenne.

At the protest following Thursday’s meeting, a speaker praised the state’s low overall immunization rate.

“We are the majority! She called for cheers.

Some 37% of residents were vaccinated on September 13, according to the Wyoming Department of Health.

Protesters protest outside a meeting of the Joint Committee on Labor, Health and Human Services in Casper on September 16, 2021. About 80 people were in attendance. (Nick Reynolds / WyoFile)

The pressure on lawmakers to act is strong. In his own testimony to the committee, Clem told lawmakers that if the government doesn’t do its job, “the people will do it themselves.” Others encouraged active resistance to vaccine mandates and to continue to appear at committee hearings to make their voices heard.

“Politicians will only respect you if they fear you,” Congressman and Wyoming Senator Anthony Bouchard (R-Cheyenne) said at Thursday’s rally.

Vaccinations for hospital staff

Wyoming Hospital Association director Eric Boley told WyoFile that although his organization supports vaccination, rates between providers vary widely and often reflect their county policy.

While some Teton County nursing homes have staff immunization rates of 70-90%, facilities in other jurisdictions are closer to 30%, he said. Although hospitals do not track staff immunization rates, data from the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services shows a little more than half of Wyoming nursing home staff have been vaccinated, among the lowest rates in the country.

Due to the political nature of the discussion, supporters of vaccination mandates were rarely represented at committee meetings, said committee co-chair Senator Fred Baldwin (R-Kemmerer). The conversation has become increasingly difficult, he added, since the Biden administration announced his tenure.

“We haven’t heard a word pro-vaccine,” he told WyoFile after the meeting. “Nobody wants to put it out there, I don’t think so. They will simply be beaten to death. I hear people who are pro-vaccine who think you should get it, but anti-mandate. ”

Vaccine mandates did not appear on the committee’s published agenda and no public notice was given of the presentation, giving vaccine advocates no opportunity to attend or respond in time. real. Wyoming’s legislative rules allow committee chairs to hold meetings as they see fit, Office of Legislative Services Director Matt Obrecht said.

“Chairs have a wide discretion in the efficient conduct of their meetings and agendas are always seen as changing,” he said.

Recent vote has shown that more than half of Americans approve of work vaccination mandates.

On Friday, a majority of eight members voted in favor of law Project ban forced vaccinations against COVID-19 before its next meeting in November. Bouchard presented the motion. A the previous version of the bill failed the Senate Judiciary Committee last winter by a 4-1 vote.

This article was originally published by WyoFile and is republished here with permission. WyoFile is an independent, non-profit news organization focused on the people, places and politics of Wyoming.

The Wyoming Department of Health provides COVID-19 cases, variant, death, trial, online hospital and vaccine data. The ministry also shares information on how the data can be interpreted. COVID-19[female[femininesafety recommendations are available from the CDC.

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