On Thursday, the U.S. Supreme Court halted the federal vaccine mandate for employees at large businesses, but allowed one that effects nearly all health care workers.
Both had been on hold in Wyoming.
In a 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court held that OSHA exceeded its statutory authority by issuing its vaccine-or-test mandate.
“We are delighted that the Supreme Court ruled favorably on our petition regarding OSHA’s authority. This is a victory for Wyoming businesses and their workers. The court rightfully recognized this action by the Biden Administration for what it was – a blatant example of federal overreach,” Gov. Mark Gordon said in a Thursday statement. “It is disappointing that the Court did not reach a similar conclusion on the CMS vaccine mandate. I continue to maintain that healthcare workers should not be forced to choose between vaccination and termination.”
At Cody Regional Health, CEO Doug McMillan said Thursday afternoon that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid released extended required dates for when staff will have to have a first dose or provide an approved exemption. Workers will have to have the first dose by Jan. 27, and the second dose, if applicable, by Feb. 28.
As of Friday, 94% of applicable hospital staff were in compliance.
“Only 6% or approximately 35 current employees are not vaccinated or have approved exemptions,” McMillan said. “Approximately 70% employees have received at least first vaccination.
“We are in very good shape organizationally and will be working with all current staff that do not meet vaccine requirements with initial date of minimum first vaccination or single dose or approved exemption by Jan. 27.”
The 5-4 court majority concluded by stating, “The challenges posed by a global pandemic do not allow a federal agency to exercise power that Congress has not conferred upon it. At the same time, such unprecedented circumstances provide no grounds for limiting the exercise of authorities the agency has long been recognized to have.”
The hospital had only implemented its policy to be in compliance in late November, less than a week before a lower court halted the mandate by CMS in Wyoming and other states that had objected. At that point early in December, administration had informed staff that the mandate requirements were paused.
“We are continuing to encourage voluntary vaccinations and will continue to process voluntary exemption requests that are submitted,” McMillan said at the time. “No staff will be placed on unpaid leave while the mandate is placed on hold.”
Employees abide by the mandate by getting vaccinated or getting a religious or medical exemption.
Before the policy was approved, board members added a provision that would allow for a suspension of the policy if an injunction were handed down.
The mandate requires nearly every employee, volunteer and contractor working at a wide range of health care facilities receiving Medicaid or Medicare funding to be vaccinated or provide an exemption. Prior to the pause in the mandate, employees were to have received at least a first dose of the vaccine prior to Dec. 6. The CRH policy would place employees on unpaid leave and then terminates them a week after the deadline if they do not comply with the policy.
By the time the hospital policy was adopted in late November, roughly 82% of eligible employees were already in compliance.