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Gordon Blasts Biden’s Vaccine Mandate: “This Has No Place in America”

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming Gov Mark Gordon on Thursday blasted President Joe Biden’s sweeping vaccine mandate as un-American and has asked his attorney general to fight it.

“I have asked the Attorney General to stand prepared to take all actions to oppose this administration’s unconstitutional overreach of executive power. It has no place in America. Not now, and not ever,” Gordon said in a statement.

On Thursday, President Biden announced his administration was enacting rules that would mandate all employers with more than 100 workers to get vaccinated for COVID-19 or be tested weekly for the virus.

The mandate could affect as many as 100 million Americans.

“We’ve been patient. But our patience is wearing thin, and your refusal has cost all of us,” Biden said in the press conference. The unvaccinated minority “can cause a lot of damage, and they are.”

“We are in the tough stretch and it could last for a while,” he said.

Gordon said Thursday’s announcement was an example of “big government overreach” and questioned the constitutionality of the rules.

“Our Constitution was written and fought for to protect our liberties as American citizens,” he said.  “This administration’s latest pronouncement demonstrates its complete disregard for the rule of law and freedoms individuals and private companies enjoy under our Constitution. In Wyoming, we believe that government must be held in check.”

State Rep. Landon Brown told Cowboy State Daily that he concurs with Gov. Gordon’s sentiments and said he encouraged the the governor’s office to take “any and all action to protect Wyoming’s businesses’ rights.”

“This federal government overreach is inexcusable and we should not stand for it,” Brown said. “Government should not be dictating business practices like this.”

Carbon County Republican Party chair Joey Correnti told Cowboy State Daily that although he hasn’t read Biden’s vaccine “action plan” yet, he was completely opposed to “anything that has mandate in the title.”

“The problem with the way Biden is doing things is that it’s an emotion and an intention with a title, none of it is quantified on paper,” he said, comparing it to the administration’s controversial “30 by 30” environmental plan.

“The Biden administration on almost every policy has been vague or not totally forthcoming on the full content on any of their emotional plans which are destroying America,” he said.

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Gordon Allocates $30 Million To Help With Health Care Staffing Issues

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Gov. Mark Gordon is allocating $30 million in federal funds to provide staffing relief and support for current health care staff and to secure traveling medical staff.

Gordon’s office announced the move on Wednesday, saying this was his way to address staffing challenges at Wyoming health care facilities amidst a surge in COVID cases and hospitalizations.

“Wyoming’s healthcare system and healthcare workers, in every community are feeling the strain of this surge,” Gordon said. “We need to recognize our healthcare workers’ commitment to caring for our neighbors during the pandemic. They are working extra-long hours and at times having to cover for sick colleagues. These are very stressful times for all of us, but particularly those in the healthcare industry. This is a means to thank them and to try to make sure we can keep them on the job.”

The governor has allocated the $20 million to be used by facilities on a discretionary basis to stabilize staffing levels. The funding is available to fill staffing shortages, provide hazard pay, and strengthen recruitment efforts for the state’s existing healthcare workforce.

The additional $10 million will be available to privately-owned Wyoming hospitals and long-term care facilities for traveling medical staff through a contract with the Wyoming Hospital Association.

Nonprofit and county-owned hospitals that have secured their own traveling medical staff will continue to be eligible for 100% reimbursement through FEMA funding.

The governor will pursue additional options to support healthcare providers during the surge, including the utilization of Wyoming National Guard members as needed.

As of Tuesday, Wyoming hospitals reported a total of 230 hospitalized COVID-19 patients, nearly as many as were hospitalized during the peak of the last surge in November.

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Gordon Reiterates No Mask Mandate; Local Control Best Option

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By Ellen Fike and Tom Ninnemann, Cowboy State Daily

Local government officials are the best leaders when it comes to making decisions about the coronavirus in Wyoming, Gov. Mark Gordon told a group in Jackson on Tuesday.

Gordon appeared at the Teton County Library on Tuesday as a part of the library’s Teton County Centennial series, where he started his comments by addressing the continuing coronavirus pandemic.

As of Tuesday, the state had more than 3,400 active cases and 195 people hospitalized for treatment.

However, Gordon has steadfastly refused to implement a second statewide mandate for the use of facemasks and he told his Jackson audience Tuesday he feels it is better to let local governments, rather than his administration, make decisions regarding how their communities should handle the the pandemic.

“We don’t believe that mandates from on high work,” he said. “We do think local control, local government is where the nexus lies. Those are locally-elected people, they’re your communities. They can appreciate the circumstances at a local level in a way that we find from on top can’t happen.”

He did note that his office will work to make sure the state’s communities have adequate supplies of vaccines, personal protective equipment and COVID tests.

Currently, only Teton County has implemented a countywide mask mandate, which came late last week after a rise in cases both in the county and state.

The mandate for Jackson was extended until December by the Jackson Town Council in a special meeting Monday. The Teton County Board of Commissioners will meet later this week to discuss extending the life of the mandate in the county outside of Jackson.

Gordon said that while he respected Wyoming residents’ freedom to choose, he also said residents know what they need to do to slow the spread of the virus — wash their hands, wear facemasks and practice social distancing.

“In this environment, I think it is extremely important that we recognize we are a community and what we do together can be very successful in defeating the virus,” he said.

Gordon also addressed the record tourism year being seen in northwestern Wyoming, saying the state is looking at ways to control visitation without imposing a permitting system to limit the number of visitors in one area.

“I think that there are some ways that we can look at how we can manage the number of visitors that come through Jackson, come through our parks, and do that without imposing some sort of permitting system,” he said. “Do that in a way that doesn’t hamper the freedom of people wanting to come visit.”

If visitors can be convinced to see areas other than Jackson and Yellowstone National Park, it might ease the burden on those areas, Gordon said.

“So if people come and they want to see the oldest national park, on their way if they could stop and see, perhaps a hot springs, perhaps some of the wonderful soft terrain that we see elsewhere in the state,” he said. “We need to encourage that. We need to be able to make sure that visitor see how friendly people in Wyoming are and how great our communities are.”

The governor also touched on the drought that has gripped the West this year, noting that for the first time ever, water has been pulled from the Flaming Gorge Reservoir to supply downstream users on the Colorado River system.

“For the first time, Flaming Gorge level will diminish this year and probably will diminish more next year if we don’t have recharge of snow, rain, etc.,” he said.

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Gordon Says Interior Dragging Feet On Mineral Leases

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

The U.S. Department of the Interior is dragging its feet in complying with a federal court ruling for it to resume mineral leasing on federal lands, according to Gov. Mark Gordon.

Gordon on Wednesday issued a statement criticizing the Interior Department for its response to a federal court judge in Louisiana who ruled against the halt on mineral leasing imposed by the administration of President Joe Biden.

“Wyoming does not believe that Interior is following either the letter or the spirit of the court’s ruling and certainly continues to violate the law,” Gordon said. “Interior has only committed to move forward with preliminary scoping for the past canceled lease sales, an action that should have occurred long ago.”

“It’s the governor’s belief that Interior is doing the minimum amount necessary to meet the court order,” said Michael Pearlman, a spokesman for Gordon.

A federal judge in June ruled that the Interior Department did not follow its own rules when it imposed a halt on oil and gas leasing on federal lands.

Because the ruling came in a lawsuit filed by the state of Louisiana against the Biden administration, it applies only to federal lands in Louisiana, but officials in other states, including Wyoming, have said it could set precedent as other judges review challenges to the halt.

The Interior Department, which is appealing the judge’s ruling, has filed documents showing what steps it will take next to comply with the ruling and resume leases.

But Gordon said it is obvious the Interior Department is doing the minimum amount of work to resume lease sales.

“From these actions it is clear that Interior has no intention of conducting a lease sale at all this year,” he said. “That is unacceptable and unlawful.”

The delays appear to be the result of an effort by the Biden administration to complete its appeal of the ruling before being forced to resume lease sales, Gordon said.

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Gordon Calls Wyoming’s Low Vaccination Rate “Disappointing”

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming’s ranking as the state with the lowest percentage of its population vaccinated against the coronavirus is “disappointing,” a spokesman for Gov. Mark Gordon said Wednesday.

Michael Pearlman told Cowboy State Daily that the low vaccination rate in Wyoming was likely due to a number of factors, including its largely rural population and the fact that in small communinties, people have seen fewer health impacts from the coronavirus among their friends and neighbors than in the state’s cities.

He also noted there has also been misinformation circulating about the effectiveness and safety of the COVID vaccines.

“On the positive side, Wyoming has seen an increase in the number of vaccinations given since July 4,” Pearlman said. “Each day, more Wyomingites are getting vaccinated. We are hopeful that full FDA approval of the Pfizer vaccine for people 16 and over will encourage more Wyomingites to choose vaccination.”

Gordon continues to believe vaccination will help keep the state’s businesses and schools open.

“He believes the science is clear that vaccination reduces the risk of severe illness, hospitalization and death from COVID-19,” Pearlman said. “He knows that vaccination provides protection for individuals and their loved ones; can help ensure healthcare access remains available for all Wyomingites; that our schools remain open and our economy remains healthy..

Pearlman added that Gordon is also encouraging people to get the vaccine, but like U.S. Sen. Cynthia Lummis, he believes vaccination is a personal choice based on certain circumstances.

According to the CDC, Wyoming had 201,863 unvaccinated adults, 45.36% of its population, the highest rate of unvaccinated people in the country.

West Virginia and Mississippi each owned the distinction of having the highest share of unvaccinated residents in the nation for months until Wyoming recently surpassed each state.

West Virginia is in 49th place with 44.36% of its citizens being unvaccinated while Mississippi is next at 44.20%.

Texas actually had the highest number of unvaccinated adults, with 6.6 million, but that amounted to only 30.8% of its population.

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Gordon Says He Strongly Opposes Federal Vaccine Mandates

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Gov. Mark Gordon is joining one of his Republican colleagues in voicing opposition to any potential federal vaccine mandates.

Through a spokesman, Gordon told Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday that any sweeping vaccine mandates would be overreach by the federal government.

“The governor has consistently opposed government vaccine mandates,” spokesman Michael Pearlman told Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday.

“A sweeping vaccine mandate would be an example of overreach by the federal government and shows a lack of regard for both individual rights and local control. The governor strongly opposes such actions,” he said.

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem on Monday said she would fight President Joe Biden’s administration in the event he implemented a federal mandate.

“If President Biden illegally mandates vaccines, I will take every action available under the law to protect South Dakotans from the federal government,” Noem said on her social media account on Monday afternoon.

Montana has banned vaccine mandates for employment, saying it is discrimination, according to the Associated Press.

Wyoming health officer Dr. Alexia Harrist reaffirmed in a statement on Monday that there would be no vaccine mandates for Wyoming students returning to school, something Gordon told news reporters last week during a call.

“While there will be no state vaccine mandate in Wyoming, we know promoting vaccination among eligible students, school staff, family members and throughout our communities can help schools stay open and vibrant as well as help keep students and their teachers in the classroom,” Harrist said. “An additional benefit to COVID-19 vaccination is that individuals who are fully vaccinated and identified as close contacts do not need to quarantine, which can be helpful in the school setting.”

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Ceremony to Recognize 20th Anniversary of 9/11 At Wyoming State Capitol

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Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon announced on Tuesday that he will join the Wyoming Veterans Commission on behalf of the Wyoming Military Department and other state and local agencies to hold a wreath-laying ceremony on the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

The event will honor the victims of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks that took the lives of 2,997 men, women and children.

“Twenty years after that devastating day that every American who was alive that day remembers, we witnessed the American People’s resolve and the best of our spirit even in a time of tragedy,” Gordon said.

“We remember that day and honor all those who sacrificed so much, who answered the call, and who continue to ensure the world remembers there is no better friend, no worse enemy than the people of the United States of America. It is right that we honor all those this day and that in so doing we can affirm that all that day cost us has not been in vain.”

The ceremony will begin at 6:30 a.m. at the State Capitol and is open to the public. Governor Gordon will join the Adjutant General MG Greg Porter and Wyoming Office of Homeland Security Director Lynn Budd for the ceremony. Recognition of wreaths will begin at approximately 7:40.

“This event will preserve the memories of the lives lost and serve as remembrance of those who responded to this awful act of terrorism,” Tim Sheppard, Wyoming Veterans Commission Director said. “We vowed to never forget, and on this day we will remember.”

Moments of silence will be held to coincide with the timing of American Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 175 hitting the north and south towers of the World Trade Center; American Airlines Flight 77 crashing into the Pentagon; and the crash of United Airlines Flight 93 near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

The ceremony will include performances from the Cheyenne All-City Children’s Chorus and the Wyoming Fire Service Combined Pipes and Drums from Casper Fire-EMS Department and the Lander Fire Department. The Wyoming Highway Patrol will post colors.

Organizations wanting to place a wreath for the ceremony, or those seeking additional information should contact the Wyoming Veterans Commission at 777-8152 by Thursday, September 9.

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Gordon ‘Not Interested’ In Accepting Afghan Refugees Into Wyoming

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By Ellen Fike

Gov. Mark Gordon “has no interest” in accepting Afghan refugees into Wyoming, his spokesman told Cowboy State Daily on Wednesday.

Unlike many of his colleagues, Gordon is not volunteering Wyoming as a safe haven for refugees fleeing Afghanistan after the Taliban overthrew the government last weekend.

“Our office has not been contacted by any federal or international officials about bringing in Afghan refugees and the governor has no interest in accepting refugees,” spokesman Michael Pearlman said. ” Please note that Wyoming currently does not have a state-administered refugee resettlement program.”

Other Western governors including Utah Gov. Spencer Cox and Colorado Gov. Jared Polis have written President Joe Biden to let him know they are willing to help refugees in any way.

“I’m deeply saddened by the human tragedy currently unfolding in Afghanistan,” Cox wrote. “I recognize Utah plays no direct role in shaping U.S. diplomatic or military policy, but we have a long history of welcoming refugees from around the world and helping them restart their lives in a new country,” Cox wrote in his letter.

Polis said Colorado stood ready to provide safety and opportunity to Afghan refugees.

“Our veteran community knows the value of the role these Afghans played overseas, and our greater Colorado community shares with you American values of humanitarianism and compassion,” Polis said. “Colorado stands ready. Please advise on how Colorado can assist.”

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem said that she is open to to the idea of accepting refugees who can be vetted, particularly those who served alongside the United States military over the duration of the 20-year war. However, she added she does not have much faith in the Biden administration to accurately review the backgrounds of refugees.

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Gordon: No Mask, Vaccine Mandates Coming From My Office

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No new requirements for the use of facemasks will be coming from the office of Gov. Mark Gordon despite the recent spike in active coronavirus cases, he said Monday.

Gordon, speaking during a media conference Monday, repeated statements that he will leave it to local government entities to decide whether a mask mandate is necessary.

“Let me be clear, we will not issue any mandates, no mandates will come from this office,” Gordon told reporters. “This has been my stance and we have not wavered from it.” Gordon issued a mask mandate in early December and rescinded it in mid-March, although he allowed cities and counties to adopt their own mask mandates.

This, he said on Monday, would be the case again: cities, counties and school districts would have free will to implement mask mandates. The University of Wyoming last week approved a mandate that would require students to wear masks until at least Sept. 20. There will also be no business lockdowns, such as what was seen early in the pandemic in March of last year.

Many Wyoming businesses, including restaurants, hair salons, gyms and more, were closed until May to some extent due to the virus. While some businesses and organizations have implemented vaccine incentives, such as the city of Cheyenne and the Cheyenne Regional Medical Center, there has been no incentive program created on a statewide level. 

As of Monday, Wyoming had 2,083 active COVID-19 cases and 112 COVID-related hospitalizations. Gordon said his office is in regular communication with state health officer Alexia Harrist and the Wyoming Department of Health about making health recommendations, rather than mandates. 

“I think it’s advisable to wear masks, but there are those who feel very strongly that masks are not the appropriate measure to take,” he said. 

However, Gordon did once again encourage Wyoming residents to get vaccinated against the virus. Around 34% of the state has been fully vaccinated, with Teton County having the highest rate, at 70.8%. 

“Wyoming is the state where we respect our responsibilities,” the governor said. “People in Wyoming should be aware our employment situation is fragile everywhere you go…so the more we can get COVID under control, the better our chances of keeping our economy without the impacts of people going home because they’re sick.” 

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Gordon Tells Lincoln County Republicans That He Won’t Shut Down State Again

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Despite a growing number of active coronavirus cases and hospitalizations across the state, Gov. Mark Gordon won’t shut down the state again, he told the Lincoln County Republican Party this week.

According to a social media post from the Lincoln County group, Gordon stopped in Afton this week for a meet-and-greet with members. During their meeting, he said he had no intention of shutting down the state again.

While the governor might not be implementing statewide health restrictions, many organizations across Wyoming are asking people to mask up again due to the continued spread of the Delta variant of the virus.

For example, the University of Wyoming will implement a mask mandate until at least Sept. 20.

All state health mandates officially ended May 31, when the final order for K-12 students across the state to wear masks while in school expired.

Wyoming had a relatively shorter shutdown than most states in the nation last year, with businesses being closed from mid-March until early May, although some restrictions were still in place, such as limiting groups to no more than 10 people.

As of Wednesday, the state had more than 1,800 active coronavirus cases and 102 people hospitalized due to the virus. Wyoming has not had more than 100 patients hospitalized since mid-January.

Wyoming’s coronavirus vaccination rate is just under 34%.

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