Idaho Governor against interfering in vaccine requirements

FILE - In this Oct. 1, 2020, file photo, Idaho Gov. Brad Little gestures during a press conference at the Statehouse in Boise, Idaho. (Darin Oswald/Idaho Statesman via AP, File)

TROY, Idaho (AP) — Lawmakers in Idaho should not reconvene to consider legislation to prevent employers from requiring workers to get COVID-19 vaccinations, the governor said.

“I need to know more about it, (but) my default position is that it’s usually best if that’s worked out between the employees and employer,” Republican Gov. Brad Little said Thursday during a “Capital for a Day” event in northern Idaho.

Primary Health Group, Saint Alphonsus Health System and St. Luke’s Health System announced the vaccine requirement last week ahead of the busy cold and flu season and as coronavirus variants spread in parts of the U.S., the Lewiston Tribune reported. Health officials in Idaho said vaccine requirements are intended to keep health care facilities open and employees and patients safe.

The rules have prompted some lawmakers to call for the Legislature to reconvene to pass laws dealing with such requirements. Republican Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin, who is running for governor, has also called for the Legislature to meet.

Republican Senate Pro Tempore Chuck Winder and Republican House Speaker Scott Bedke have been noncommittal about reconvening the Legislature amid concerns the government should generally not interfere with the work requirements of private businesses.

Typically, only governors can call special sessions. But the House never fully adjourned this year under a plan to allow Bedke to simply call lawmakers back to the Statehouse without needing Little’s approval. Special sessions called by governors have limits on what can be considered.

If I call them back (into special session), I can put boundaries around what they consider,” Little said. “If they call themselves back, it’s ‘Katy, bar the door.’”

Little said that he’s heard of “a significant number” of other businesses with similar mandates issued after discussions with employees.

“It wasn’t a dictatorial decision by the highest part of the corporate ladder. It was a partnership,” he said.

On another coronavirus-related topic, Little said he didn’t see any reason why schools couldn’t hold in-person classes this fall. He also said there’s virtually no chance of another shutdown this fall because of a resurgence of COVID-19.

“Given every scenario I’m aware of, there’s no possibility of that,” Little said.

However, the delta variant has recently been discovered in Idaho, health officials said. The variant spreads more easily because of mutations, which make it better at latching onto cells.

Also, Idaho’s vaccination rate is among the worst in the nation, with only about 40% of the population having received at least one dose of vaccine. About 38% of the population is fully vaccinated, according to the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare.

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