Iowa Sheriff says he will not mandate the COVID-19 vaccine for employees

Woodbury County Sheriff Chad Sheehan
Woodbury County Sheriff Chad Sheehan(KTIV)
Published: Sep. 10, 2021 at 1:04 PM CDT
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SIOUX CITY (KCRG/AP/KTIV) - The sheriff of a northwest Iowa county said he will not mandate the COVID-19 vaccine for employees at his office.

Woodbury County Sheriff Chad Sheehan made the announcement after President Joe Biden laid out a six-step strategy to combat COVID-19, including a new vaccine mandate for nearly 100-million Americans.

“I was elected by the citizens of Woodbury County to defend their freedoms and liberties guaranteed in the constitution of the United States,” Sheriff Sheehan said in a press release. “This includes the employees of the Woodbury County Sheriff’s Office.”

On Thursday, President Joe Biden announced a mandate requiring employers with more than 100 employees to require their workers getting the vaccine or offer some way to do COVID-19 testing every week. Many within the private sector have already started issuing mandated vaccinations for at least some of their employees.

Biden’s announcement comes as the U.S. is still struggling to curb the surging delta variant, with thousands of virus-related deaths being reported each week, jeopardizing the nation’s economic recovery.

In their Sept. 8 COVID-19 post, the Siouxland District Health Department said there have been a total of 233 COVID-19 deaths in Woodbury County. Additionally, they reported there were 28 hospitalizations with COVID-19 in the county. Eighteen of those hospitalizations were county residents, and 17 of them were hospitalized because of COVID-19.

Data posted by the SDHD shows there has been an upward trend in the last few weeks for positive COVID-19 tests reported in Woodbury County. For the week of Aug. 9, there were 154 positive cases, while for the week of Aug. 30, there were 287 cases reported.

The SDHD says as of Sept. 8, 43.4% of the county’s population has been full vaccinated against COVID-19.

Woodbury County COVID-19 data
Woodbury County COVID-19 data(KTIV)

Sheehan is not the only elected official in Iowa to speak out after Biden’s vaccine mandate announcement. Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds released a statement Thursday criticizing Biden’s decision:

“President Biden is taking dangerous and unprecedented steps to insert the federal government even further into our lives while dismissing the ability of Iowans and Americans to make healthcare decisions for themselves.

Biden’s plan will only worsen our workforce shortage and further limit our economic recovery.

As I’ve said all along, I believe and trust in Iowans to make the best health decisions for themselves and their families. It’s time for President Biden to do the same. Enough is enough.”

One legal expert in Iowa said the president’s jurisdiction allows him to impose the new vaccine requirement. President Biden has federal jurisdiction over employers with more than 100 workers, health clinics that receive Medicare or Medicaid funds, and government workers.

Des Moines attorney Gary Dickey explained to WOI that Biden is trying to find all the areas of federal regulation where he has the authority to impose this type of vaccination mandate.

“For hospitals that receive Medicare and Medicaid funds, they can make receipt of those funds condition upon having your employees vaccinated,” Dickey said. “For businesses and industries that fall within the regulation of OSHA, he has directed OSHA to impose a vaccination requirement as a safety rule for those industries.”

Dickey also said he expects some companies to try and find loopholes in the requirement.

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