Oklahoma Attorney General joins suit in blocking vaccine mandate

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Oklahoma Supreme Court Justice John Kane, left, shakes hands with Oklahoma’s new Attorney General John O’Connor after he swore O’Connor into office at the state Capitol, Friday, July 23, 2021, in Oklahoma City. (AP Photo/Sean Murphy)

OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. (KNWA/KFTA) — Attorney General John O’Connor is joining Arkansas in suing the Biden administration over the recent COVID-19 vaccine mandate for health care workers.

O’Connor and 11 other attorney generals filed the suit on Monday, Nov. 16, asking a federal court to stop the mandate, claiming it threatens to “further burden the healthcare sector and patient well-being in Oklahoma, where a large percentage of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities are already facing worker shortages,” according to a press release.

The lawsuit also claims the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services vaccine mandate on facilities receiving federal funding for treatment exceeds CMS’ statutory authority and violates the Social Security Act’s prohibition on regulations that control hiring and firing of workers.

“I will not tolerate the Biden Administration threatening Oklahoma healthcare workers with their jobs after they have fearlessly braved the pandemic,” said Attorney General O’Connor. “Oklahoma is already suffering from staffing shortages, and this mandate will only worsen it, especially in rural Oklahoma.”

The press release also states the mandate is a danger to the well-being of those who rely on services provided by the healthcare program and those who provide patient care with potential job termination.

According to the release, the mandate targets about a quarter of the nation’s healthcare workers who have chosen to not get vaccinated.

The release says nearly 43% of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities in Oklahoma are suffering from staff shortages, according to the AARP’s Nursing Home COVID-19 Dashboard, with 42% being unvaccinated.

“The Vaccine Mandate threatens to exacerbate already devastating shortages in healthcare staffing by forcing small rural hospitals to terminate their unvaccinated workers,” the lawsuit states. “If the unvaccinated quit or are fired, that will compel those hospitals to close certain divisions, cancel certain services, or shutter altogether.”

Attorneys general from Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, South Carolina, Utah, West Virginia are also plaintiffs in the case.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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