November 28, 2021

Supervisors table COVID-19 exemption until federal lawsuit settled

Jasper County waits while Iowa Legislature seeks to prevent vaccine mandate with its own laws

Jasper County Supervisors are tabling the introduction of the COVID-19 vaccine exemption for county employees until the federal lawsuit is settled. In light of the ongoing legal battle between the state and federal government, the supervisors decided to table their discussion and introduction of Jasper County’s COVID-19 exemption documents and rules during its Nov. 9 meeting.

“The action item was in regards to a bill the Iowa Legislature passed during a recent special session. It states that employers that have more than 100 employees, which the county falls under, have to honor religious and medical exemptions for the COVID vaccine. So, for personnel tracking purposes the county created a simple form for employees to fill out stating whether they are medically or religiously exempt that would be put in their personnel files. Because of the hold order that’s been issued by a judge the board decided table that issue during today’s meeting,” supervisor Brandon Talsma said.

The issue first came up during a special Iowa legislative session on Oct. 28, during which a bill that allows employees to claim religious or medical reasons for not wanting the COVID-19 vaccination was passed. This bill was passed within a few hours of its introduction and a few days before the Biden administration and OSHA announced its new vaccine mandate plans.

According to The Daily Iowan, Rep. Henry Stone said this bill’s content drew directly from Biden’s administrations upcoming plans for a nation wide vaccine mandate. A statement released by the White House on Nov. 4 regarding the new federal mandates states, “More vaccinations are needed to save lives, protect the economy, and accelerate the path out of the pandemic. To that end, in July, President Biden began rolling out vaccination requirements for federal employees and contractors and calling on employers to do the same.”

The statement goes on to explain that two new federal vaccine policies, one requiring businesses with more than 100 employees to require vaccinations or weekly testing and another requiring all healthcare workers at facilities participating in Medicare and Medicaid be fully vaccinated, will begin to be enforced on Jan. 4, 2022.

According to Iowa Public Radio, only hours after the new policies were released, Reynolds announced Iowa joined a lawsuit with 10 other states to prove the federal government lacks the constitutional authority to issue this mandate.

“I believe the vaccine is the best defense against COVID-19, but I also firmly believe in Iowans’ right to make health care decisions based on what’s best for themselves and their families,” Reynolds said during her lawsuit announcement.

The lawsuit appears to be targeting the mandate that requires businesses with more than 100 employees to require vaccinations, not the mandate that requires healthcare workers to be vaccinated.

It is currently unknown when or if the issue of the county’s exemption policies will be revisited.

Contact Abby Knipfel at 641-792-4687 ext. 6531 or aknipfel@shawmedia.com

Abby Knipfel

Abby "Adler" Knipfel

Journalist at Newton Daily News. Currently covering Jasper County and writing passionate opinion pieces. They/Them