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

Wyoming Medical Center CEO says vaccine mandates are an important tool for safety

Plaque with directions to Emergency and main entrance at the Wyoming Medical Center
Wyoming Medical Center
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Wyoming Medical Center

Banner Health representatives told state lawmakers during the special legislative session underway this week that 10 percent of its employees in Wyoming have not complied with its COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

Out of the 1,629 Banner Health employees in the state, 160 have not been vaccinated. None have an exemption. These employees operate in four Wyoming hospitals including the largest one: the Wyoming Medical Center in Casper.

CEO Lance Porter told lawmakers that the vaccine mandate is needed so that health care workers can stay in the fight.

"The problem that we face is when you are unvaccinated and you are exposed outside of work or you get COVID you're out of the fight and can care for those patients," he said.

In addition, Porter highlighted that most health care providers get into the field of work to help other people.

"The reason we are proposing this vaccine mandate is to be able to provide that vaccine status," he said. "We have patients who have requested only nurses who are vaccinated to provide that care, to protect our other patients that are there, and protect our employees."

Last week, Wyoming had the most number of people hospitalized for COVID-19 since the pandemic began: 249 hospitalized patients. The Wyoming Medical Center was treating 206 total COVID patients as of last week. That's the highest number of patients they have had. Porter said vaccines and testing are tools to be able to continue to provide 24/7 care.

The health care representatives testified during the special legislative session which is discussing banning vaccine mandates like the one Banner Health currently has. In mid-July, the company announced mandatory vaccinations by Nov. 1. Those that are unvaccinated will continue to work till the end of November but it is unclear what their status will be afterward.

Lawmakers asked those testifying about religious exemptions, natural immunity, and testing alternatives of vaccine mandate.

In addition to reporting daily on the happenings in Northwest Wyoming, Kamila is also the producer of the Kids Ask WhY Podcast and the History Unloaded Podcast.Kamila has worked for public radio stations in California, New York, France and Poland. Originally from New York City, she loves exploring new places. Kamila received her master in journalism from Columbia University. In her spare time, she enjoys exploring the surrounding areas with her two pups and husband.
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