In response to a lawsuit by a coalition of ten states, including Wyoming, U.S. District Judge Matthew T. Schelp of the Eastern District of Missouri issued a preliminary injunction which halts the implementation and enforcement of a rule that required healthcare workers to be vaccinated against SARS-CoV-2 (COVID) with at least one dose by Dec. 6.
The suit was filed against the Biden administration after the publishing of a rule from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) which required healthcare employees, including volunteers and contractors, to be vaccinated.
The plaintiffs, which include the states of Missouri, Nebraska, Arkansas, Kansas, Iowa, Wyoming, Alaska, South Dakota, North Dakota, and New Hampshire filed their complaint on Nov. 10. The states asked for a preliminary injunction blocking the imposition of the mandate on Nov. 12.
In today’s injunction, Schelp noted that the plaintiffs demonstrated a likelihood of success on the merits of their suit, specifically an argument that congress has not provided CMS with the authority to enact the regulations within the rule. The injunction also notes plaintiffs have a likelihood of success regarding a lack of required notice and comment and that the mandate is arbitrary and capricious.
In a press release today, Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon said, “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.”
The CMS rules had broad applicability because it targeted organizations that receive federal Medicare or Medicaid funding.
“Healthcare employees should not be forced to choose between vaccination and termination,” Gordon added.
States had cited situations where communities would be without medical professionals in certain specialties or place facilities under additional burden because of limited staff and the difficulty in hiring new employees should employees choose to quit their jobs instead of receiving a COVID vaccination.
“Because it is evident CMS significantly understates the burden that its mandate would impose on the ability of healthcare facilities to provide proper care, and thus, save lives, the public has an interest in maintaining the ‘status quo’ while the merits of the case are determined,” Judge Schelp wrote.
The injunction applies only in the ten states who joined in the suit.
A larger strategy
In the release today, Gordon spokesperson Michael Pearlman stated that Wyoming has taken a three-pronged approach against the Biden’s administration’s implementation of COVID vaccine mandates.
The first prong was the filing of a lawsuit against the Biden administration over the imposition of a COVID vaccine mandate on federal contractors and federally contracted employees. The coalition of states Wyoming joined is awaiting a ruling on a request for a temporary injunction in the case.
The second prong was a lawsuit challenging the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) emergency temporary standard which required COVID vaccination or testing of employees for organizations with 100 or more employees. As with the other suits, Wyoming joined with other states in the case.
Implementation of the OSHA mandate was placed on hold by the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans in response to a case filed by a Louisiana businessman, though several states and organizations have filed their own suits to challenge the mandate (County 17, Nov. 29).
The third prong was the action against the Biden administration over the CMS rules mandating COVID vaccination for healthcare workers.
A copy of the court’s order is available here.
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.