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Deaths Of Another 13 Wyoming Residents Tied To Coronavirus

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

The number of Wyoming deaths blamed on the coronavirus since it was first detected in the state has increased to 1,601, the Wyoming Department of Health announced Tuesday.

The department announced that the deaths of 13 more Wyoming residents in November, December and January had been linked to the coronavirus.

Among the fatalities were three Laramie County residents, two women and one man, and three Natrona County men.

Other victims included a Campbell County man, two Fremont County women, a Hot Springs County woman, a Park County woman and a Sweetwater County man and woman.

The deaths were announced on the same day Health Department figures showed the number of active coronavirus cases in Wyoming reached 6,641 on Tuesday, increasing by almost 50% from Friday and exceeding 5,000 for the first time since December 2020.

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3,097 New Coronavirus Cases In Wyoming On Tuesday; 1,859 Recoveries; 6,641 Active

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By Tim Mandese, Cowboy State Daily. 

Wyoming’s active coronavirus increased by 2,213 over the holiday weekend.

Wyoming Department of Health figures showed that the department received reports of 1,859 recoveries among those with confirmed or probable cases from Saturday to Tuesday. 

At the same time, the state reported 3,097 new laboratory-confirmed and 988 new probable cases, leaving Wyoming with 6,641 active cases for Tuesday.

This is the first time since December of 2020 that the state’s number of active cases has exceeded 5,000.Two counties had more than 1,000 active cases Tuesday, nine had more than 300 and 13 had more than 100. 

Laramie County’s total of active cases increased by 544 over the weekend to total 1,368; Natrona County’s active case tally increased by 408 to 1,003; Teton had 860; Fremont 553; Albany 431; Sweetwater 392; Campbell 364; Sheridan 318; Uinta 317; Lincoln 179; Carbon and Park 134; Johnson 120; Goshen 90; Comverse 62; Sublette 60; Crook 55; Platte 51; Washakie 48; Weston 40; Hot Springs 30; Big Horn had 24, while Niobrara reported eight.

Active cases are determined by adding the total confirmed and probable coronavirus cases diagnosed since the illness first surfaced in Wyoming on March 12, 2020, subtracting the number of recoveries during the same period among patients with both confirmed and probable cases and taking into account the number of deaths attributed to the illness. 

The new confirmed and probable cases brought to 130,553 the number of people diagnosed with coronavirus since the first case was detected in Wyoming in March 2020. 

Of those, 122,311 have recovered.

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Multiple Wyoming School Districts, Harrist Removed From Mask Mandate Lawsuit

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A number of parties, including the state’s public health officer, have been removed from a lawsuit filed over face mask requirements earlier this year at place at some of the state’s schools.

Albany County School District 1, Sheridan County School District 2, Laramie County School District 1, Uinta County School District 6, Sweetwater County School District 2, Goshen County School District 1, the Sheridan Police Department, Wyoming state health officer Dr. Alexia Harrist and Wyoming Department of Health interim director Stefan Johansson have all been removed from the lawsuit by U.S. District Judge Nancy Freudenthal.

ACSD1 was removed from the lawsuit on Jan. 10, while the other defendants were removed in late December.

In an opinion filed in the December ruling, Freudenthal called the complaint filed on behalf of former Laramie High School student Grace Smith and others a “confused jumble of factual assertions…extensive citations to articles and other materials of nonparties…and legal arguments.”

“Plaintiffs repeat many legal arguments verbatim several times,” the opinion read. “In short, the amended complaint is so overly long, confused, repetitive, argumentative and generic in its allegations.”

The court applied this same reasoning to the order taking ACSD1 off of the lawsuit.

The decision leaves Gov. Mark Gordon and county health officers in five counties as defendants on the lawsuit.

The lawsuit was filed in November on behalf of Smith and 10 other plaintiffs.

Smith is a former Laramie High School student who was arrested on a charge of trespass for refusing to wear a face mask inside the high school. The lawsuit filed against the state and several school districts asked the court to find the mask mandates in place in several school districts unconstitutional.

The initial lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court on Nov. 2 alleges that rules adopted by some districts requiring students to wear masks while in class, observe social distancing and to quarantine when exposed to coronavirus have been improperly adopted.

The lawsuit asks the court to find there was never an imminent threat to Wyoming’s residents from coronavirus, that Gordon’s initial emergency declaration was unconstitutional, that school districts have no authority to impose such mandates and that all such orders should be lifted immediately.

Last month, as the school districts were seeking dismissal from the lawsuit, one organization actually filed a motion to join as defendants.

Families for Healthy Communities, a Wyoming nonprofit membership organization, filed a motion to intervene and join the lawsuit on Dec. 9. In its motion, Families for Healthy Communities said it wanted a say in the lawsuit because it has an interest in protecting the health of its student members and their families from COVID through masking, which would be impaired if the lawsuit succeeds in eliminating mask requirements in schools.

“Families’ members support face mask requirements in school…more stringent than (Wyoming Health Department) guidelines, to protect their health and that of their fellow students, teachers, staff and of their families and community,” the motion read.

Families’ lawyers argued that the state and school districts involved in the lawsuit could not adequately represent the nonprofit’s interests, because “governments are prone to making shifts in policy.”

“It is no secret that (the state and school districts) are under significant pressure to eliminate their COVID-19 response policies,” the motion said.

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1,127 New Coronavirus Cases In Wyoming On Friday; 594 Recoveries; 4,428 Active

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By Tim Mandese, Cowboy State Daily. 

Wyoming’s active coronavirus increased by 888 to end the week.

Wyoming Department of Health figures showed that the department received reports of 594 recoveries among those with confirmed or probable cases. 

At the same time, the state reported 1,127 new laboratory-confirmed and 355 new probable cases, leaving Wyoming with 4,428 active cases for Friday.

Ten counties had more than 100 active cases and five had more than 300. 

Laramie County had 824 active cases; Teton County had 620; Natrona 595; Fremont 360; Albany 353; Uinta 285; Sweetwater 250; Campbell 231; Sheridan 213; Lincoln 112; Park 98; Carbon 92; Converse 68; Johnson 55; Goshen 53; Sublette 43; Platte 37; Washakie 32; Crook 29; Weston 27; Hot Springs and Big Horn had 21, while Niobrara reported nine.

Active cases are determined by adding the total confirmed and probable coronavirus cases diagnosed since the illness first surfaced in Wyoming on March 12, 2020, subtracting the number of recoveries during the same period among patients with both confirmed and probable cases and taking into account the number of deaths attributed to the illness.

The new confirmed and probable cases brought to 126,468 the number of people diagnosed with coronavirus since the first case was detected in Wyoming in March 2020. Of those, 120,452 have recovered.

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Supreme Court Halts Vaccine Mandate, Wyoming Officials Rejoice

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Several top Wyoming officials celebrated the news Thursday that the U.S. Supreme Court halted the implementation of the federal vaccine mandate as it applied to workers at large companies.

While the court did allow the mandate requiring health care workers to be vaccinated against COVID to take effect, it blocked the mandate that worker at companies employing more than 100 people get mandates or regularly tested for the coronavirus.

“Although Congress has indisputably given OSHA the power to regulate occupational dangers, it has not given that agency the power to regulate public health more broadly. Requiring the vaccination of 84 million Americans, selected simply because they work for employers with more than 100 employees, certainly falls in the latter category,” the unsigned opinion said.

Wyoming had filed a lawsuit aimed at stopping the mandate and Gov. Mark Gordon said he was “delighted” to hear of the court’s decision.

“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,” Gordon said Thursday.

However, he was disappointed that the health care workers mandate remained in place.

“I continue to maintain that healthcare workers should not be forced to choose between vaccination and termination. We are still in the process of evaluating the impacts of this ruling on Wyoming’s healthcare workforce,” he said. 

U.S. Sen. Cynthia Lummis had similar praise for the mandate applying to private companies.

“This is a huge win,” she said. “The federal government has no place making far-reaching mandates that put an undue burden on businesses across Wyoming.”

U.S. Sen. John Barrasso also touted the ruling on his social media Thursday afternoon.

“Today, the Supreme Court confirmed what we all knew: @POTUS Biden’s vaccine mandate on employees of private businesses is unconstitutional. This ruling frees millions of Americans from having to choose between their job and their personal health care decisions,” Barrasso said. “Stopping this massive government overreach is a victory for all Americans who value the Constitution and their personal freedoms.”

President Joe Biden announced in September that he would require federal employees , health care workers and workers at companies employing more than 100 people to get the coronavirus vaccine.

In response, Wyoming filed three lawsuits seeking to block the mandate for employees of large companies, health care workers and federal contractors and their employees.

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946 New Coronavirus Cases In Wyoming On Thursday; 966 Recoveries; 3,540 Active

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By Tim Mandese, Cowboy State Daily. 

Wyoming’s active coronavirus increased by 277 on Thursday.

Wyoming Department of Health figures showed that the department received reports of 966 recoveries among those with confirmed or probable cases Thursday. 

At the same time, the state reported 946 new laboratory-confirmed and 297 new probable cases, leaving Wyoming with 3,540 active cases for Thursday.

Six counties had more than 200 active cases and nine had more than 100. Laramie County had 665; Teton 480; Natrona 460; Albany 339; Fremont 251; Uinta 246; Campbell 190; Sweetwater 186; Sheridan 157; Lincoln 91; Park 86; Carbon 82; Johnson 53; Converse 48; Goshen 37; Sublette 34; Washakie 28; Platte 27; Crook 23; Weston 20; Hot Springs 19; Big Horn had 12, while Niobrara reported six.

Active cases are determined by adding the total confirmed and probable coronavirus cases diagnosed since the illness first surfaced in Wyoming on March 12, 2020, subtracting the number of recoveries during the same period among patients with both confirmed and probable cases and taking into account the number of deaths attributed to the illness.

The new confirmed and probable cases brought to 124,986 the number of people diagnosed with coronavirus since the first case was detected in Wyoming in March 2020. 

Of those, 119,858 have recovered.

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743 New Coronavirus Cases In Wyoming On Wednesday; 1,014 Recoveries; 3,263 Active

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By Tim Mandese, Cowboy State Daily. 

Wyoming’s active coronavirus case total decreased by 25 on Wednesday.

Wyoming Department of Health figures showed that the department received reports of 1,014 recoveries among those with confirmed or probable cases Wednesday. 

At the same time, the state reported 743 new laboratory-confirmed and 246 new probable cases, leaving Wyoming with 3,263 active cases for Wednesday.

Six counties had more than 200 active cases and nine had more than 100. Laramie County had the highest number of active cases at 604; Teton 463; Natrona 429; Albany 296; Uinta 239; Fremont 236; Campbell 195; Sheridan 149; Sweetwater 135; Park 94; Carbon 83; Lincoln 80;  Converse 49; Johnson 42; Sublette 29; Washakie 27; Goshen 25; Crook and Platte 19; Weston 18; Big Horn 14; Hot Springs had 12, while Niobrara reported six.

Active cases are determined by adding the total confirmed and probable coronavirus cases diagnosed since the illness first surfaced in Wyoming on March 12, 2020, subtracting the number of recoveries during the same period among patients with both confirmed and probable cases and taking into account the number of deaths attributed to the illness.

The new confirmed and probable cases brought to 123,743 the number of people diagnosed with coronavirus since the first case was detected in Wyoming in March 2020. 

Of those, 118,892 have recovered.

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Wyoming Assistant U.S. Attorney Challenges Vaccine Mandate

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

An assistant U.S. Attorney in Wyoming is suing President Joe Biden and a group of other federal officials over the requirement for federal employees to be vaccinated against the coronavirus.

Margaret Vierbuchen, a 25-year employee of the federal government, is asking the U.S. District Court in Wyoming to block federal agencies from demanding that she and other federal employees get the COVID vaccine or face the loss of their jobs.

“No law passed by Congress .. authorizes such a sweeping intrusion into the lives and medical decisions of America’s federal civil servants,” the lawsuit said. “Nor does the Constitution give the president such monarchial power.”

Biden announced in September that he would require federal employees, health care workers and workers at companies employing more than 100 people to get the coronavirus vaccine. The mandates for health care workers and large employers are being reviewed by the U.S. Supreme Court.

According to the lawsuit, filed Jan. 4, Vierbuchen, who has spent the last six years as an assistant U.S. Attorney in Wyoming and New Mexico, caught the coronavirus and recovered from it, giving her antibodies against the illness.

The lawsuit said Vierbuchen is refusing to get the vaccination, which has resulted in threats of the loss of her job.

“For her failure to obey the president’s illegal command, the defendants have threatened that she will lose her job and, contrary to federal law, they will strip away the retirement benefits she has earned through her service,” it said.

The lawsuit said Vierbuchen has also been forced to submit to intrusive COVID-19 tests and has had access to her workplace restricted because she refuses the vaccination.

The lawsuit said Biden’s order “exceeds the lawful authority of his office” and violates Vierbuchen’s due process rights, right to privacy and her right to be free of unwanted and unnecessary medication.

The lawsuit, which also names as defendants the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland and the directors of the General Services Administration and Office of Management and Budget, argued Biden had no authority to impose a vaccine mandate.

“Never has the executive branch claimed authority to compel all federal civilian employees to submit to the forcible injection of medication against their will,” it said. 

Congress has never given the president the authority to issue such a mandate for civil servants, the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit also argued that federal employees do not give up their constitutional freedoms because they are employed by the federal government.

“Federal employees do not lose their personal autonomy over medical decisions by agreeing to serve the people of the United States,” it said. “Nor do executive branch officials have dictatorial authority over the lives and livelihoods of those they supervise.”

The lawsuit asks the court to find that Biden’s mandate is unenforceable and that its implementation has violated Vierbuchen’s constitutional rights.

The lawsuit also asks the court to block officials from requiring Vierbuchen “and others similarly situated” to comply with the mandate.

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Wyoming’s COVID-Related Deaths Rise To 1,588

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

The number of deaths linked to the coronavirus since it was first detected in Wyoming has climbed to 1,588, according to the Wyoming Department of Health.

The department announced Tuesday that another 16 deaths that occurred in December and January have been tied to COVID.

The deaths included three Carbon County residents, two men and a woman, a Big Horn County man and woman and a Fremont County man and woman.

Other victims included a Hot Springs County man, a Laramie County woman, two Natrona County men, a Park County man, a Sweetwater County man and woman and a Washakie County man and woman.

The announcement of the deaths came on the same day the department’s figures showed the number of active coronavirus cases in the state climbed by 203 to total 3,288.

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Cheyenne School District To Discontinue Mask Mandate Despite Rising COVID Cases

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The largest school district in Wyoming will rescind its mask mandate for students and staff later this month despite rising active COVID cases across the state and nation.

The Laramie County School District No. 1 board of trustees on Monday night voted to discontinue the mandate on Jan. 21. The action was narrowly approved, with trustees Brittany Ashby, Christy Klaassen, Alicia Smith and Tim Bolin voting to approve the change to the district’s coronavirus response plan and Marguerite Herman, Rose Ann Million Rinne and Rick Wiederspahn voting against it.

“It’s time we lift the September addendum to the Smart Start plan,” attorney and former congressional candidate Darin Smith told the trustees. “It’s now proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that we can keep our schools open, have low to no risk for our kids and staff, all without the mask mandate. The rest of the state has already proven it.”

Once the mandate ends, students and staff will be encouraged, but not required, to wear a mask while in school.

As of Tuesday, 35 active COVID cases had been identified among LCSD1 students and staff, according to the district’s COVID dashboard.

Darin Smith, who is married to trustee Alicia Smith, emailed LCSD1 community members over the weekend to encourage them to email trustees — identifying those believed to be in support of or opposed to the mask mandate — and attend the meeting to voice their thoughts about the mandate.

Smith’s email also identified the board members who were running for re-election this year, although he mistakenly identified Herman as seeking re-election. Herman has announced she will retire from the board this year.

During the public comment portion of the meeting, several parents criticized the trustees for implementing the mask mandate and adopting quarantine rules for students to follow after exposure to COVID.

The public comment portion of the meeting lasted more than an hour on Monday night. Comments were similar to those heard when the mask mandate was adopted last fall, with some referring to school officials as “criminals” and “child abusers.”

The school district implemented the mandate at the start of the fall semester when the Delta variant of the coronavirus was of concern. Now, the omicron variant, which is less mild, is the dominant strain in state. The Cheyenne hospital was also at capacity due to an increase in COVID patients at the time.

As of Monday, Laramie County had 555 active COVID cases, the second-highest in the state, behind Teton County with 618, which is also the most vaccinated county in Wyoming.

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