Governor is exploring options to challenge federal vaccine mandate for health care workers, Iowa Guard

DES MOINES — Governor Kim Reynolds says she and a group of other Republican governors are mulling more legal action in hopes of nullifying the federal requirement that health care workers get vaccinated against COVID-19. 

“We’re continuing to review our options and what our next steps are,” Reynolds says. “I think you’ll see shortly the direction that we’re moving” Reynolds spoke with reporters late Wednesday morning in the Capitol rotunda.

A month ago, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the Biden Administration’s vaccination requirement that employees in health care settings and the governor did not indicate what new path the governors might take.   “Vaccines aren’t stopping the spread of Omicron…It’s less severe, I mean I get all that, but it’s not stopping the spread,” Reynolds says. “…I do not believe that we should tell somebody that has been on the front line from the beginning to choose between their livelihood and getting a vaccine that you just don’t believe in.”

Reynolds also objects to the Department of Defense requirement that Iowa National Guard members be vaccinated by this summer. About one in five Iowa Guard soldiers haven’t gotten a COVID shot.  “These are people that have fought for the very freedoms and liberties that we are talking about. I absolutely don’t agree with the mandate and we’re continuing to look at what our alternatives are with that as well,” Reynolds says. “Both are wrong. I mean, I’ve been consistent with that. I do not think that mandates are the right way to go.”

Reynolds is among five governors who wrote the U.S. Defense Secretary in December, asking him to withdraw the COVID vaccine mandate for the National Guard. Last week, the Defense Secretary said the vaccinations are a part of ensuring military readiness among all units. Reynolds announced a week ago that her public health emergency proclamation will expire next Tuesday.  “It was time to move on,” Reynolds says, “and we’ll continue to treat it like we do other viruses and if we see for some reason another uptick, then we’ll reevaluate at that point and decide what mitigation steps we need to do.”

Some information on the Iowa Department of Public Health’s online COVID dashboard will be removed. Reynolds says most of the data will be posted elsewhere on the agency’s website. “We’ve seen a significant decline in the use of the information on website. I think about 93-98% down from where we were,” Reynolds says. “People are not going there. They’re not utilizing it.”

Reynolds says 24 percent of those who logged onto the COVID dashboard were repeat users who she suspects were there to download data, which is also being compiled by the Centers for Disease Control.