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Woodbury County Sheriff says he will not mandate the COVID-19 vaccine for employees

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Woodbury County Sheriff Chad Sheehan

SIOUX CITY (KTIV) - Woodbury County Sheriff Chad Sheehan says he will not mandate the COVID-19 vaccine at the sheriff's office. The sheriff's announcement comes after President Joe Biden laid out a six-step strategy to combat COVID-19, including a new vaccine mandate for nearly 100-million Americans.

In a press release, Sheehan said he will not mandate employees at the sheriff's office to receive the COVID-19 vaccine

"I was elected by the citizens of Woodbury County to defend their freedoms and liberties guaranteed in the constitution of the United States. This includes the employees of the Woodbury County Sheriff’s Office."

Sheriff Chad Sheehan

On Thursday, Biden announced a mandate ordering employers with more than 100 employees to require workers getting the vaccine, or offer some way to do COVID-19 testing every week. Many within the private sector have already started issuing mandated vaccinations for at least some of their employees.

Biden's announcement comes as the U.S. is still struggling to curb the surging delta variant, with thousands of virus-related deaths being reported each week, jeopardizing the nation’s economic recovery.

In their Sept. 8 COVID-19 post, the Siouxland District Health Department said there have been a total of 233 COVID-19 deaths in Woodbury County. Additionally, they reported there were 28 hospitalizations with COVID-19 in the county. Eighteen of those hospitalizations were county residents, and 17 of them were hospitalized because of COVID-19.

Data posted by the SDHD shows there has been an upward trend in the last few weeks for positive COVID-19 tests reported in Woodbury County. For the week of Aug. 9, there were 154 positive cases, while for the week of Aug. 30, there were 287 cases reported.

The SDHD says as of Sept. 8, 43.4% of the county's population has been full vaccinated against COVID-19.

Sheehan is not the only elected official in Iowa to speak out after Biden's vaccine mandate announcement. Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds released a statement Thursday criticizing Biden's decision:

“President Biden is taking dangerous and unprecedented steps to insert the federal government even further into our lives while dismissing the ability of Iowans and Americans to make healthcare decisions for themselves.

Biden’s plan will only worsen our workforce shortage and further limit our economic recovery.

As I’ve said all along, I believe and trust in Iowans to make the best health decisions for themselves and their families. It’s time for President Biden to do the same. Enough is enough.”

Gov. Kim Reynolds.

One Siouxland lawyer, Bruce Smith, says when it comes to the president's mandate, under the law, he may or may not have authority to do it. In order to accomplish the mandate, Biden must go to the Occupation Safety and Health Administration. OSHA has the authority to police worker safety, so the president can use the agency to put the mandate in place.

"Attempt to use OSHA as the means to achieve the end. Which is worker safety and vaccination of employees," said Smith.

Smith adds, employers can be fined for not following the mandate.

"The president has suggested, I believe yesterday he said, a $14,000 per violation fine against the employers. But, we don't know the specifics until the rule is proposed by OSHA as to exactly what the penalties will be," said Smith.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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Dean Welte

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Emily Schrad

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