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307 Politics: Political messaging on the COVID-19 vaccine
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307 POLITICS

307 Politics: Political messaging on the COVID-19 vaccine

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I’ve only lived in Wyoming for six months, but its libertarian leanings are easily apparent — You do you, and I’ll do me, but don’t tell me what to do.

Now, as COVID-19 cases have surged across the country, President Joe Biden as issued an executive order that will require workers at business with more than 100 employees to be vaccinated or tested weekly.

This did not go over well with Wyoming’s politicians. But while they oppose the mandate, many of them say they’re inoculated themselves, acknowledge that vaccines save lives.

Within hours of Biden’s announcement, multiple Wyoming lawmakers had sent out rebukes.

“COVID-19 has taken too many lives in WY and wreaked havoc on our economy,” Sen. Cynthia Lummis said in a tweet. “Development of vaccines under Pres. Trump saved many lives. I got my vaccine, and I urge you to talk to your dr about getting yours, but the federal govt inserting itself like this is a huge overreach.

Lummis was not the only politician to acknowledge the horrible COVID-19 death toll while opposing the federal mandate.

“I personally believe that we have to stand with our personal freedoms, even if people make the wrong choices and don’t live through it all,” said state Sen. Ogden Driskill, R-Devil’s Tower, who told the Star-Tribune that he is vaccinated himself. “They’ll make the right choice in time,” he added.

The day after Biden announced the mandate, Wyoming’s legislative leadership called the requirement “arbitrary and likely unconstitutional,” and they seem to be gearing up to fight it in a special session.

The proportion of fully vaccinated people in Wyoming is at roughly 37%, one of the lowest rates in the country, so it’s no secret that vaccination, let alone mandated vaccination, is unpopular. Wyoming residents’ hesitancy concerning the vaccine likely contributes to politicians’ messaging, particularly with an election coming up next year.

Rep. Liz Cheney acknowledged that the vaccine will “save lives,” but quickly added, “Even while we’re dealing with the public health emergency, we’ve got to respect states’ rights.”

Gordon has repeatedly told the public that he is vaccinated and has continually encouraged vaccinated, while also promising to challenge the mandate, which he called an egregious case of government interference.

“It has no place in America,” Gordon said. “Not now, and not ever.”

Many politicians do not see any contradiction in their statements. Vaccination might be the right choice, they say, but it’s also a personal one.

That said, if you’re an elected official, what kind of responsibility do you have to advocate for the best interest of your constituents? As Cheney put it, we’re in a public health emergency.

What’s the role of government in a public health emergency like this one? Email me at victoria.eavis@trib.com with your thoughts.

Follow state politics reporter Victoria Eavis on Twitter @Victoria_Eavis

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