The United States District Court, Eastern District of Missouri, issued a preliminary injunction Monday halting the Biden Administration from enforcing its vaccine mandate on healthcare workers in the states that joined Missouri’s coalition.

A preliminary injunction is a temporary measure as the case is brought to court and came after a lawsuit filed by Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt. The mandate, issued earlier this month by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), would have forced approximately 17 million workers to receive the vaccination or be fired, including 1,500 Lake Regional Health System employees.

LRHS mandate on hold

As a result of the preliminary injunction announced Nov. 29, Lake Regional Health System will pause its COVID-19 vaccination requirement for employees until a final determination is made on the CMS regulation by the courts or by Congress. All employees may continue to work while following safety protocols. Also on Nov. 29, Lake Regional employees who had requested a medical or religious exemption from the requirement were notified of their status. If the CMS requirement is validated, approved exemptions will be honored. At such time, Lake Regional will set a new deadline for its COVID-19 vaccination appeal process.

Lake Regional will continue to strongly encourage vaccination and will make convenient vaccination opportunities available for employees and community members.

Missouri action  

On Nov. 10, Missouri Attorney General Schmitt led a coalition of 10 states in filing a lawsuit to halt the CMS vaccine mandate on healthcare workers, the first states to file suit.

“This is a huge victory for healthcare workers in Missouri and across the country, including rural hospitals who were facing near certain collapse due to this mandate,” Schmitt said. The Court argued that CMS, “Did not have the authority to issue the mandate.”

The ruling applies in Missouri, Nebraska, Alaska, Arkansas, Kansas, Iowa, Wyoming, South Dakota, North Dakota, and New Hampshire.

U.S. District Judge Matthew Schelp ruled CMS lacked evidence the vaccination had a direct impact on spreading COVID in the mandated healthcare facilities and “Congress did not clearly authorize CMS to enact this politically and economically vast, federalism-altering, and boundary-pushing mandate, which Supreme Court precedent requires,” Schelp said. “This ruling pushes back on the overreach of power by those who are using the coronavirus as a tool for control over people,” Attorney General Schmitt said. “While today’s ruling is a victory, there’s more work to be done, and I will keep fighting to push back on this unprecedented federal overreach,” Schmitt said. “Let me be clear: My office will not back down in this fight. I will continue to push back every step of the way on the tyrannical overreach of government that we’ve seen, every single time and in every level of government.”

The Missouri Attorney General’s Office has also filed suit to halt OSHA’s vaccine mandate on private employers and the vaccine mandate on federal contractors, both of which are awaiting court rulings.

Local input

The We the People group of Camden County has held two Stop the Mandate at LRHS rallies at Lake Regional Hospital in Osage Beach.

“We support health care workers who do not want to receive the vaccine,” We the People of Camden County Member-at-Large Dan Ousely said. “We are standing up for their constitutional right. They should be able to make their own health choices and choose what is put into their own body.”

Stop the LRHS Mandate Rally 3 is scheduled at 3 p.m., Friday, Dec. 3, at the Lake Regional Health Systems, 54 Hospital Drive in Osage Beach. It's not clear if that rally will be held in light of the latest court ruling.