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Stories, Stats, Impacts: Wyoming Public Media is here to keep you current on the news surrounding the coronavirus pandemic.

Campbell County Hospital Board Takes A Stand Against COVID-19 Vaccine Requirement

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Campbell County Memorial Hospital in Gillette Wyoming

The Campbell County Health Board of Trustees wants to fight COVID-19 vaccine requirements coming soon from the federal government. The board is taking its stand as the Delta variant tears through its largely unvaccinated county and overwhelms the hospital's ICU.

"Campbell County is proudly conservative, and we do not like the federal government telling us what to do," the board wrote in a statement Friday. "We will continue to push forward, and the fears and concerns of our employees will not be disregarded by the Board of Trustees."

The Biden Administration is crafting new rules that will require employees of large businesses and institutions to be vaccinated or else be tested frequently. Gov. Mark Gordon and others are planning to push back in the courts, but some Wyoming institutions have been preparing to comply.

The Campbell County Health trustees called plans for a vaccine mandate "stomach-churning" in their statement Friday, voicing concern that such a requirement might cause healthcare workers to quit, leaving the hospital understaffed.

"Biden's directive to require employees be vaccinated as a condition of participating in Medicare and Medicaid is a gross federal overreach," the statement reads. "Implementing such mandates in our community could leave us without enough healthcare workers to care for our elderly and sick, including those with COVID-19. This will not only deflate our already declining workforce, but leave our organization in a critical staffing predicament that we have never dealt with."

Meanwhile, the virus is spreading rapidly through Campbell County, which is currently one of the state's worst hotspots. The hospital's ICU is at full capacity, the county is home to more than 400 active cases and COVID-19 has killed 74 residents there throughout the pandemic.

Campbell County has a 22 percent positive testing rate, meaning the county is likely under-testing its population and missing cases from its official tally.

It's also one of the least vaccinated places in the state; three out of four people in the county are still unvaccinated.

Vaccines are effective at reducing one's chances of catching COVID-19, and greatly reduce one's chances of being hospitalized or dying if they do catch a breakthrough case. Hospitals across the state — and everywhere else — report that almost everyone in their ICUs or dying from COVID are unvaccinated.

"While we may have to comply with these federal vaccine mandates as they are implemented to keep our state license and to keep our doors open, we support the efforts of our governor, federal representatives, and our state legislature to fight back against this policy," the statement reads. "It simply does not align with our community's values."

The Campbell County Health trustees oversee Campbell County Memorial Hospital and its affiliated healthcare centers. Campbell County Health and the hospital board are distinct from the Campbell County Public Health Office. The Public Health Office declined to comment on the hospital board's statement.

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