A federal judge in Missouri has blocked President Joe Biden’s administration from enforcing a coronavirus vaccine mandate on the thousands of health care workers in 10 states, including Wyoming, that had brought the first legal challenge against the requirement.

The court order said that the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid had no clear authority from Congress to enact the vaccine mandate for providers participating in the two government health care programs for the elderly, disabled and poor, the Associated Press reports.

The preliminary injunction by St. Louis-based U.S. District Judge Matthew Schelp applies to a coalition of suing states that includes Alaska, Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming. Similar lawsuits are pending in other states.

The injunction prohibits this vaccine mandate from being enforced in these 10 states “pending a trial on the merits of this action or until further order of this Court," according to court documents.

“This is welcome news for Wyoming’s rural healthcare facilities, which are already facing staffing challenges without additional unconstitutional burdens being placed on their employees by the federal government,” Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon said in a press release. “Healthcare employees should not be forced to choose between vaccination and termination.” 

The federal rule requires COVID-19 vaccinations for more than 17 million workers nationwide in about 76,000 health care facilities and home health care providers that get funding from the government health programs. Workers are to receive their first dose by Dec. 6 and their second shot by Jan. 4.

Gordon and Attorney General Bridget Hill entered Wyoming in this lawsuit, challenging the federal mandate. 

Biden’s administration contends federal rules supersede state policies prohibiting vaccine mandates and are essential to slowing the pandemic, but Schelp wrote that the federal government overstepped its authority. 

In its ruling, the court agreed to preliminarily block implementation and enforcement of the rule because arguments made by the 10-state coalition have a likelihood of success based on the merits. The states argued that CMS does not have authority to issue the mandate, and that it would impact the ability of healthcare facilities to effectively care for patients.

“Because it is evident CMS significantly understates the burden that its mandate would impose on the ability of healthcare facilities to provide proper care, and thus, save lives, the public has an interest in maintaining the ‘status quo’ while the merits of the case are determined,” the court wrote.

This is just one of three elements of Wyoming’s approach to fighting the federal vaccine mandates.

The state also has sued the Biden administration for imposing a vaccine mandate on federal contractors and federally contracted employees. Wyoming is currently awaiting a ruling on a request for a temporary injunction in the case. 

Wyoming also has sued to halt the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's emergency temporary standard which mandates vaccines on employees of private Wyoming businesses with over 100 employees. This has resulted in a pause on the implementation of that temporary standard.

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