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Reynolds vows to fight vaccine requirements for businesses

Reynolds vows to fight vaccine requirements for businesses

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Reynolds vows to fight vaccine requirements for businesses

Gov. Kim Reynolds

‘I’m not anti-vaccine. … but I do not believe in mandates,’ she says

DES MOINES — Gov. Kim Reynolds continues to push back on federal efforts to force Iowans to get COVID-19 vaccinations while at the same time advocating for the inoculations intended to counter the potentially deadly virus.

Last week the governor signed legislation that allows employees in private Iowa businesses to claim they are medically vulnerable or have a religious objection to a mandated vaccine based solely on their statements, rather than with the backing by a bona fide professional. Under the bill that took effect upon enactment, Iowans who lose their jobs for refusing to comply with an employer's COVID-19 vaccination requirement will still be eligible to collect unemployment benefits after their terminations.

On the same day, Reynolds announced that Iowa had joined nine other states in a lawsuit challenging President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate for all workers employed by a federal contractor, which is one-fifth of the nation’s workforce.

She told a radio audience Tuesday she expects to join other states in challenging a Biden administration directive requiring employers with 100 or more employees to mandate that all employees be vaccinated against COVID-19 or else undergo weekly testing, once the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration issues its emergency temporary standard. State attorneys also will seek to lift a federal injunction on an Iowa law barring school officials from imposing mask mandates when the issue is argued before a three-judge panel Nov. 18, she said.

“We’re going to do everything we can to push back” on what she viewed as federal interference of Iowans’ freedoms and abilities to make health care decisions, the Republican governor said on a WHO-AM 1040 talk show hosted by former GOP state legislator Jeff Angelo.

“I’m not anti-vaccine. I got the vaccine. I think that’s the best defense for COVID-19, but I do not believe in mandates. It’s an overreach. It’s unconstitutional,” she said.

Reynolds said she expects to be able to phase out the last remaining provisions of her March 2020 COVID-19 emergency public health disaster proclamation if the positive cases and hospitalizations continued their current downward arc, noting the regulatory provisions still in effect are “very minimal.” She also indicated she expects on Wednesday to announce the recommendations from her child care task force on how to distribute a sizable share of the nearly $500 million in child care and development block grants the state has received as part of the federal government’s COVID-19 relief and recovery efforts.

According to an update from the Legislative Services Agency, all totaled Iowa has received $9.319 billion in federal assistance with $7.037 billion awarded directly to state agencies that have expended more than $4.4 billion, with nearly $3 billion yet to be allocated over a period of fiscal years. Almost $3 billion, or about two-thirds of the expended federal aid, has been paid in unemployment benefits to Iowans who were temporarily or permanently idled by the pandemic that hit the state in March 2020.

Comments: (515) 243-7220; rod.boshart@thegazette.com

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