Idaho State Board of Ed relieved after federal judge halts COVID-19 vaccine mandate

·2 min read

The Idaho State Board of Education expressed relief Tuesday shortly after a federal judge temporarily blocked enforcement of a COVID-19 vaccine mandate that would have impacted universities.

A U.S. District Court judge on Tuesday temporarily blocked the requirement for federal contractors to be vaccinated against COVID-19, one of three vaccine mandates President Joe Biden’s administration has tried to implement in its fight against COVID-19.

Judge R. Stan Baker of the Southern District of Georgia granted the preliminary injunction after several states, including Idaho, joined a lawsuit challenging the president’s vaccine mandate for federal contractors.

State Board of Education President Kurt Liebich said this was the outcome the board had been hoping for.

“Since the mandate was issued, our institutions have been struggling to develop plans to comply, and the preliminary injunction gives us breathing room to chart a proper path forward without forcing employees to choose between getting vaccinated or potentially losing their job,” he said in a statement.

Boise State University last week sent an email to the community that said university workers — including faculty, staff and student employees — would need to submit proof of vaccination or a medical or religious exemption by Jan. 4, “barring an order from the court suspending the EO.”

That meant employees covered under the mandate would have been required to get a first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by early December at the latest to receive both shots by Jan. 4.

It’s unclear what consequences institutions would have faced if they were unable to mandate all vaccines by then. But Liebich in a statement said the mandate put at risk $90 million in federal research contracts held by the state’s universities.

Universities had been working to determine which employees the mandate would apply to before it was temporarily blocked, Mike Keckler from the State Board of Education told the Idaho Statesman.

Universities will likely now put those efforts on hold given the injunction, Keckler said.

Gov. Brad Little in a statement Tuesday touted Idaho’s lawsuits against Biden’s mandates and said Idaho will continue to fight “the federal government’s bad policies.”

“Yet another one of President Biden’s vaccine mandates have been temporarily shut down because the states – including Idaho – took a stand against his unprecedented government overreach into Americans’ lives and businesses,” Little said.

Universities and state officials are still encouraging people to get vaccinated and have said the COVID-19 vaccines are one of the key ways to slow the spread of the virus.

The most recent data from the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare shows 57% of people 5 and older in Idaho have had at least one dose of the vaccine, and 51% are fully vaccinated.

Becca Savransky covers education for the Idaho Statesman in partnership with Report for America. The position is partly funded through community support. Click here to donate.

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