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Wyoming Special Session Slated For Next Week

in News/Coronavirus/politics
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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The Wyoming Legislature will convene for a special session next week to address coronavirus vaccination mandates expected to be handed down by the federal government, the Legislative Service Office announced Tuesday.

The Legislature’s leaders, Senate President Dan Dockstader, R-Afton, and House Speaker Eric Barlow, R-Gillette, received a sufficient number of votes affirming the decision to have a special session, the LSO said.

The three-day session will begin at 10 a.m. on Oct. 26.

Sen. Ogden Driskill, R-Devils Tower, the Senate’s majority floor leader, explained that despite the fact that about 20 bills could be introduced during the special session, the legislators’ focus would be on vaccine mandates.

“We’re going to keep the topic very narrow, just to mandates,” he told Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday. “We’ve got three bills being worked on right now, and in the broadest terms, one deals with federal overreach, one is about employer mandates and then there’s one about employee rights.”

In September, President Joe Biden announced that federal workers, health care workers and employees at companies that employ more than 100 people will have to be vaccinated against coronavirus or be tested every week for the illness.

However, the Biden administration has not yet released the rules to put the mandate in place. As a result, writing bills in Wyoming for federal policies that are not yet in place could be tricky.

“The LSO has done a phenomenal job with these bills,” Driskill said. “We want to be careful to avoid making a law where Wyoming citizens and employers have to decide between violating a state law or a federal one. It’s really hard to deal with rules that aren’t out there yet.”

Thirty-five Wyoming representatives and 17 senators voted to hold a special session, while 12 representatives and seven senators voted against holding one.

According to the LSO, the Legislature plans to hold committee meetings on Oct. 26. After that, identical versions of any bills to be considered will be worked in each chamber, with the required three reviews of the bills to take place Oct. 27. Then joint conference committee meetings will be held Oct. 28 to resolve any differences between the House and Senate versions of the bills.

Barlow and Dockstader did not immediately return Cowboy State Daily’s request for comment on Tuesday.

The rules formalizing the schedule will have to be approved by two-thirds of the legislators when they open the session on Oct. 26.

Nine members of Wyoming’s Democratic Caucus told legislative leadership that they would be voting against the session. The legislators included Reps. Cathy Connolly, D-Laramie, Mike Yin, D-Jackson, Karlee Provenza, D-Laramie, and Andi Clifford, D-Riverton, and Sens. Chris Rothfuss, D-Laramie, and Mike Gierau, D-Jackson.

“After considering the $25,000 per day cost of a special session, the lack of released federal rules in regards to how OSHA may enforce vaccine mandates, and the Supremacy Clause of the US Constitution that indicates that federal laws override state directives, we believe a special session would be an undue burden to the taxpayer, a waste of time and resources for legislators and our staff, and would further cause an undue burden to Wyoming businesses who would be forced to choose  between following state OR federal law, requiring them to be in violation of one or the other,” the caucus wrote. 

Rep. Landon Brown, R-Cheyenne, was one of the Republican members of the legislature who also voted against the special session.

“My stance is clear: Our President’s mandate has no place in Wyoming,” Brown said on social media last week. “Unfortunately, we have no clue what his mandate looks like under rule making process and we would be fighting against a rule that doesn’t exist yet. While I believe President Biden’s proposed rule is too far for government to reach, I also believe it is too far for government to enter into the hiring practices of private businesses.”

“If a private business wishes to impose hiring protocols that an employee is uncomfortable with, they have the choice to not enter into that employment,” he continued. “Likewise, the business should be ready to suffer the consequences of the choices they choose to impose or not impose on their employees and the response from the public. Let the business succeed or fail based on their merit, not on government interference.”

Sen. Anthony Bouchard, R-Cheyenne, was one of the senators who voted to hold the session, posting a photo of his ballot to social media, along with a post-it note containing a message to legislative leadership.

“We now need a special session because the Republican establishment killed my bill on the same subject,” Bouchard wrote on the ballot. “Of course I will vote yes on the special session. Don’t Fauci our Wyoming!”

Rep. Chuck Gray, R-Casper, also voted for the session.

“The dates of October 26-28 have also been scheduled for the special session, which would allow us to pass a bill banning mandates before the Banner Health deadline goes into effect,” Gray wrote on social media. “This is great news for our state! We must stop these radical vaccine mandates.”

Gov. Mark Gordon and Attorney General Bridget Hill are preparing Wyoming’s legal challenge to the federal vaccine mandate when they are finalized. 

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166 New Coronavirus Cases In Wyoming On Tuesday; 407 Recoveries; 3,064 Active

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By Tim Mandese, Cowboy State Daily. 

Wyoming’s active coronavirus case count decreased by 61 on Tuesday.

The Wyoming Department of Health received reports of 407 recoveries among those with confirmed or probable cases on Tuesday. 

At the same time, the state reported 166 new laboratory-confirmed and 236 new probable cases, leaving Wyoming with 3,064 active cases for Tuesday.

Fourteen counties had more than 100 active cases, with six having more than 200.

Natrona County had 541; Freemont 313; Laramie 291; Sheridan 241; Campbell 220; Goshen 159; Uinta 146; Park 143; Albany 137; Sweetwater 117; Washakie 111; Carbon 105; Lincoln 101; Converse 86; Teton 67; Platte 62; Weston 41; Sublette 37; Niobrara 34; Crook 33; Big Horn 32; Johnson had 29; while Hot Springs reported the fewest active cases, with 17.

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 98,567 the number of people diagnosed with coronavirus since the first case was detected in Wyoming in March 2020. Of those, 94,367 have recovered.  

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Wyoming Health Department Announces 56 More Deaths Tied To COVID

in News/Coronavirus
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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

The number of Wyoming deaths blamed on coronavirus since it was first detected in March 2020 has increased to 1,136, the Wyoming Department of Health announced Tuesday.

The department said the deaths of 56 Wyoming residents were linked to the coronavirus in September and October.

Nine deaths were reported among Natrona County residents, five men and four women, and seven were hospitalized for treatment.

Campbell County reported eight residents died in September and October, five women and three men, while eight Sheridan County residents, five women and three men, also died within the last two months.

Victims also included six Laramie County residents, three men and three women, five Fremont County residents, three men and two women, and four Big Horn County residents, three men and one woman.

Other victims included a Converse County man, two Goshen County men, a Johnson County man, a Sheridan County man and woman, two Sublette County men, two Sweetwater County men, a Sweetwater County woman, a Teton County woman, two Washakie County women, a Washakie County man and a Weston County man.

The announcement was made as the state reported the number of active coronavirus cases in the state declined by 61 on Tuesday from Monday to total 3,064.

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826 New Coronavirus Cases In Wyoming On Monday; 1,435 Recoveries; 3,125 Active

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By Tim Mandese, Cowboy State Daily. 

Wyoming’s active coronavirus case total decreased by 407 over the weekend.

The Wyoming Department of Health received reports of 1,435 recoveries among those with confirmed or probable cases between Friday and Monday. 

At the same time, the state reported 826 new laboratory-confirmed and 202 new probable cases, leaving Wyoming with 3,125 active cases on Monday.

Twelve counties have more than 100 active cases, with six having more than 200. 

Natrona County had 558; Freemont 309; Laramie 293; Campbell 246; Sheridan 236; Goshen 195; Park 161; Albany 144; Sweetwater and Uinta 133; Washakie 107; Carbon 101; Lincoln 86; Teton 73; Converse 69; Platte 68; Weston 47; Sublette 39; Big Horn 32 Crook and Johnson 26; Niobrara 25; had while Hot Springs reported the fewest active cases, with 18. No county reported zero active cases.

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 98,165 the number of people diagnosed with coronavirus since the first case was detected in Wyoming in March 2020. Of those, 93,960 have recovered.

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Arrested Laramie Teen Doesn’t Regret Decision To Quit School

in News/Coronavirus
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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A Laramie teen who was arrested for refusing to comply with a facemask mandate at Laramie High School does not regret her decision last week to withdraw from the high school.

Grace Smith officially withdrew from Laramie High School following her arrest on Oct. 7 on a charge of trespassing stemming from her refusal to comply with the school’s mandate for the use of facemasks.

“I know that this fight is not only about me, so I’m confident in my decision,” Grace told Cowboy State Daily on Monday. “I also do not regret any decision leading up to this one for the same reason.”

As a result of the incident, Grace recently received a one-year scholarship to an online school and she plans on attending the school, father Andy Smith told Cowboy State Daily on Friday.

Albany County School District No. 1, which includes Laramie High, adopted a requirement for the use of facemasks in September. The requirement was extended until mid-November by school board members during the same meeting that saw Grace announce her plans to withdraw from the school.

“I was unlawfully arrested from my own school,” Grace told the board. “You have bestowed an egregious amount of power upon yourselves. You have instilled a sense of false hope in each parent that has given you the privilege of educating their child.”

Despite the situation, Andy Smith said that Grace was not ruling out going back to Laramie High, possibly for her senior year of high school.

“The decision to leave was not an easy one as it meant giving up the things that she loved,” Andy Smith told Cowboy State Daily. “She is also alone now and already misses friends.”

Grace went into custody willingly and was polite with officers when arrested, videos taken and shared by her father show. The teen was also fined $1,000 for trespassing.

Grace told board members they were infringing on Albany County students’ constitutional rights by forcing them to wear masks in school.

She did note that she wasn’t arguing about whether or not masks were effective, but about the choice to wear one.

“High school is hard enough already. Why are we making it harder?” she said.

Andy Smith told Cowboy State Politics that initially when the mandate was implemented in September, the school district was going to allow students to obtain exemption forms, but Superintendent Jubal Yennie ultimately decided to allow exemptions under eight criteria, none of which Grace met.

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Dick, Liz Cheney Mourn Death Of Former Secretary Of State Colin Powell

in News/Liz Cheney/Coronavirus
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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Both former Vice President Dick Cheney and U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney publicly mourned the death of former Secretary of State Colin Powell on Monday.

“I’m deeply saddened to learn that America has lost a leader and statesman,” Dick Cheney said. “General Powell had a remarkably distinguished career, and I was fortunate to work with him. He was a man who loved his country and served her long and well.”

Powell died Monday of complications related to COVID-19, despite the fact he was fully vaccinated, although it was not clear if he had received a booster shot. He was 84.

“Working with him during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, I saw first-hand General Powell’s dedication to the United States and his commitment to the brave and selfless men and women who serve our country in uniform,” Dick Cheney said. “Colin was a trailblazer and role model for so many: the son of immigrants who rose to become National Security Advisor, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and Secretary of State.”

“Very sorry to hear of the passing of General Colin Powell. He was a statesman and a leader who loved and served our nation,” Cheney’s daughter, U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney, said on social media Monday.

According to CNN, Powell had multiple myeloma, a cancer of plasma cells that suppresses the body’s immune response. 

Powell was the first Black U.S. secretary of state under former President George W. Bush’s administration, the first Black national security adviser during former President Ronald Reagan’s administration, the youngest and first Black chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under President George H.W. Bush.

He was also awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom twice.

Powell is survived by his wife Alma and three children.

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338 New Coronavirus Cases In Wyoming On Friday; 603 Recoveries; 3,532 Active

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By Tim Mandese, Cowboy State Daily. 

Wyoming’s active coronavirus decreased by 130 to end the week Friday.

The Wyoming Department of Health received reports of 603 recoveries among those with confirmed or probable cases on Friday. 

At the same time, the state reported 338 new laboratory-confirmed and 135 new probable cases, leaving Wyoming with 3,532 active cases.

Twelve counties had more than 100 active cases, with six having more than 200. 

Natrona County had 689; Freemont 328; Campbell 298; Laramie 294; Sheridan 241; Goshen 214; Park 197; Uinta 156; Albany 145; Sweetwater 138; Washakie 132; Lincoln 110; Carbon 92; Converse 83; Platte 71; Teton 70; Sublette 63; Big Horn 51; Weston 50; Crook 34; Niobrara 32; Johnson 29; had while Hot Springs reported the fewest active cases, with 15.

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 97,137 the number of people diagnosed with coronavirus since the first case was detected in Wyoming in March 2020. Of those, 92,525 have recovered.

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461 New Coronavirus Cases In Wyoming On Thursday; 508 Recoveries; 3,662 Active

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By Tim Mandese, Cowboy State Daily. 

Wyoming’s active coronavirus count increased by 97 on Thursday.

The Wyoming Department of Health received reports of 508 recoveries among those with confirmed or probable cases on Thursday. 

At the same time, the state reported 461 new laboratory-confirmed and 144 new probable cases, leaving Wyoming with 3,662 active cases.

Thirteen counties had more than 100 active cases, with seven having more than 200. 

Natrona County had 738; Laramie 305; Campbell 301; Freemont 291; Sheridan 246; Goshen 212; Uinta 199; Park 195; Sweetwater 162; Albany and Washakie 136; Lincoln 119; Converse 96; Carbon 95; Big Horn 71; Sublette 66; Platte 65; Teton 63; Weston 52; Crook 35; Johnson 33; Niobrara had 30, while Hot Springs reported the fewest active cases with 16.

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 96,664 the number of people diagnosed with coronavirus since the first case was detected in Wyoming in March 2020. Of those, 91,992 have recovered.

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Teen Arrested At Laramie High Officially Withdraws From School

in News/Coronavirus/Education
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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Grace Smith, the Laramie High School student who was arrested following her refusal to wear a mask at school, officially withdrew from the school on Wednesday.

Grace spoke during the public comment portion of the Albany County School District 1 board meeting on Wednesday evening, chastising the board members for the situation she is now in and officially withdrawing as a student at the school.

“I was unlawfully arrested from my own school,” Grace told the board. “You have bestowed an egregious amount of power upon yourselves. You have instilled a sense of false hope in each parent that has given you the privilege of educating their child.”

Grace and her father Andy Smith did not immediately return Cowboy State Daily’s request for comment on Thursday. It was not immediately clear what the teen planned to do to finish out her high school career.

Grace was arrested on Thursday at Laramie High School because she refused to leave after being suspended for not following the mandatory mask policy. The officer told her she was trespassing.

“I want to make it very clear to you that you do not own us as kids,” Grace told the board. “You have no right to tell us who we get to be and you have absolutely no right to make our health decisions for us.”

Grace went into custody willingly and was polite with officers when arrested, videos taken and shared by her father show. The teen has also received $1,000 in trespassing fines, which she noted to the board during her speech.

The school district implemented a mask mandate in early September after Albany County and Wyoming’s COVID cases continue to climb, as well as its hospitalizations. The board covered this topic at the Wednesday meeting, again extending the mandate until Nov. 12.

Grace told the board they were infringing on Albany County students’ constitutional rights by forcing them to wear masks in school.

She did note that she wasn’t arguing about whether or not masks were effective with the situation, but about the choice to wear one.

“High school is hard enough already. Why are we making it harder?” she said.

Andy Smith told Cowboy State Politics that initially when the mandate was implemented in September, the school district was going to allow exemption forms, but Superintendent Jubal Yennie ultimately revoked them and only allowed exemptions under eight criteria, none of which Grace met.

Grace also told the board that she has been bullied, discriminated against and threatened by other students due to her refusal to wear a mask.

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Legislators Divided Over Whether Wyoming Should Have Special Session On Vaccine Mandate

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Wyoming State Capitol
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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming’s legislators are divided over whether or not the state should hold a special session regarding President Joe Biden’s proposed vaccine mandates.

In September, Biden announced that federal workers, health care workers and employees at companies that employ more than 100 people will have to be vaccinated against coronavirus or be tested every week for the illness.

Wyoming’s legislators have until Thursday to vote on whether or not the state should hold a special session regarding the mandate.

Nine members of Wyoming’s Democratic Caucus told legislative leadership that they would be voting against the session. These members included Reps. Cathy Connolly, Mike Yin, Karlee Provenza and Andi Clifford and Sens. Chris Rothfuss and Mike Gierau.

“After considering the $25,000 per day cost of a special session, the lack of released federal rules in regards to how OSHA may enforce vaccine mandates, and the Supremacy Clause of the US Constitution that indicates that federal laws override state directives, we believe a special session would be an undue burden to the taxpayer, a waste of time and resources for legislators and our staff, and would further cause an undue burden to Wyoming businesses who would be forced to choose  between following state OR federal law, requiring them to be in violation of one or the other,” the caucus wrote. 

Rep. Landon Brown, R-Cheyenne, was one of the Republican members of the legislature who also voted against the special session.

“My stance is clear: Our President’s mandate has no place in Wyoming,” Brown said. “Unfortunately, we have no clue what his mandate looks like under rule making process and we would be fighting against a rule that doesn’t exist yet. While I believe President Biden’s proposed rule is too far for government to reach, I also believe it is too far for government to enter into the hiring practices of private businesses.”

“If a private business wishes to impose hiring protocols that an employee is uncomfortable with, they have the choice to not enter into that employment,” he said. “Likewise, the business should be ready to suffer the consequences of the choices they choose to impose or not impose on their employees and the response from the public. Let the business succeed or fail based on their merit, not on government interference.”

Former Speaker of the House Kermit Brown praised Brown (no relation) for his vote.

“Courageous vote and absolutely the right thing to do. We don’t need to be getting in lawsuits with the Feds,” Kermit Brown wrote. “They are horribly expensive and trying to overcome the supremacy clause in the US Constitution is an uphill battle.”

“I always figured each day of the legislature cost $30,000 and I think I am low especially for a short special session. We are broke and don’t know it and we cannot afford silly expenditures like this,” he said.

As of Wednesday morning, a dozen senators had voted to hold the special session, while four had voted to not hold it. More than 25 representatives had also voted to hold the session.

Sen. Anthony Bouchard, R-Cheyenne, was one of the senators who voted to hold the session, posting a photo of his ballot to social media that included a post-it note with a message to legislative leadership.

“We now need a special session because the Republican establishment killed my bill on the same subject,” Bouchard wrote on the ballot. “Of course I will vote yes on the special session. Don’t Fauci our Wyoming!”

Rep. Chuck Gray, R-Casper, also voted for the session.

“The dates of October 26-28 have also been scheduled for the special session, which would allow us to pass a bill banning mandates before the Banner Health deadline goes into effect,” Gray wrote on social media. “This is great news for our state! We must stop these radical vaccine mandates.”

It was not immediately clear whether the plan was to hold the session in person or virtually, but it would be around $45,000 cheaper to hold a session online.

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