Down, But Not Out: Legislator Tries Again To Opt Wyoming Out Of CDC Health Mandates

Rep. Jeanette Ward saw her first attempt to push back on COVID-19 public health measures fail but by a razor thin margin. So, she's trying again. Her new bill would give the governor the option to ignore federal mandates.

Leo Wolfson

February 05, 20234 min read

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(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

After having her first attempt at prohibiting pandemic-related public health restrictions defeated at the state Capitol in Cheyenne, state Rep. Jeanette Ward, R-Casper, is trying a slightly different approach.

Ward has sponsored another piece of legislation titled “Health Mandates-CDC and WHO Jurisdiction in Wyoming” that would exempt Wyoming from having to follow guidelines set by the federal Centers For Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization.

If passed, House Bill 143 would strip the recognized jurisdictions of the organizations in Wyoming and any related requirements, mandates, recommendations, instructions or guidance provided by them. 

“I further request that the people of Wyoming be allowed to speak first before any agency,” Ward told the Legislature’s House Labor Health and Social Services Committee on Friday. 

The committee voted 5-4 to advance the bill to the House floor.

For Wyoming To Decide

Ward’s desire behind the bill is for Wyoming to have final say as to what health restrictions and mandates it follows, if any. 

She said she didn’t consult with the Wyoming Department of Health about her legislation, but she expects the agency to oppose it out of fear of losing federal health care funding.

That was one of the major points of opposition brought against Ward’s previous bill, House Bill 66, which would have prevented businesses, schools and health care facilities in Wyoming from being required to enforce any COVID-19 public health requirements. 

HB 66 failed on a third reading in the House by a 31-29 vote.

Ward said she doesn’t see a threat for the state to lose federal money in response if her new bill is passed.

Face Masks And Vaccines

A few people testified Friday, questioning the efficacy and effectiveness of receiving vaccines and wearing face masks. 

Each told stories of people they knew who suffered long-term side effects from the use of either of vaccines, masks or both. 

The CDC and WHO have issued strict guidance on vaccines and face masks since the start of the pandemic. Wyoming, at the behest of Gov. Mark Gordon, offered related directives on the matter until May 2021. 

President Joe Biden recently announced he is ending the federal Covid-19 public health emergency May 11. 

Ward referred to the government’s order as the “scamdemic emergency.”

Wyoming Republican Party Executive Director Kathy Russell said there should be no vaccine mandates of any kind, mentioning how her daughter suffered blood clots from a vaccine as a young child.

It’s About Protection

Jan Cartwright, executive director of the Wyoming Primary Care Association, disagreed.

“The CDC defines public health as ‘protecting and improving the health of people and their communities of entire populations,’” she said. “This legislation takes a tool that officials use to achieve that goal in our state and our country.”

Although an overwhelming number of medical studies have validated the use of vaccines and face masks, there have been a small number of cases where their use caused serious negative side effects and sometimes death. 

Rep. Kevin O’Hearn, R-Casper, one of the few swing votes in the House, voted for HB 143 bill even though he received vaccines for decades while serving in the military. 

O’Hearn said some of his constituents brought him concerns on the matter.

“I never liked the mask mandates, and I only got the vaccines so I could go out of the country,” he said.

If Ward’s legislation passes it would likely be up to the governor to make decisions for the state on any health-related mandates, but he wouldn’t be able to refer to the CDC or WHO in justifying those decisions. 

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Leo Wolfson

Politics and Government Reporter