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Nevada lawmakers block vaccine mandate extensions

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Posted at 9:50 PM, Dec 21, 2021

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — 12 legislators held the fate of thousands of unvaccinated Nevadans in their hands Tuesday as the Nevada Division of Public and Behavioral Health petitioned six Republicans and six Democrats to make their emergency vaccine mandates permanent.

The mandates affected all students in higher education and state workers and contractors in high-risk fields like healthcare and corrections.

UPDATE: UNLV working to remove registration holds after COVID vaccine mandate expired

NDPB Chief Medical Officer Aizen Azzam said the emergency regulations were designed to limit the spread of the coronavirus and protect the medical system.

"We consider in public health developing a disease a failure," he said.

Republican senators like Joseph Hardy, District 12, questioned the efficacy of the mandates despite applauding the vaccines, saying he's been vaccinated himself, calling on everyone to be vaccinated.

RELATED: Unvaccinated people 20 times more likely to die of COVID, CDC says

Hardy compared the coronavirus to the flu in saying he wouldn't vote to extend the mandates beyond the 120-day limit set by law for emergency regulations.

"The goal to prevent all people from getting this particular virus may be a little more wishful thinking than otherwise," Hardy said.

A passionate Nicole Cannizzaro, the senate majority leader, pled with her colleagues across the aisle ahead of the final vote.

"To me, it is unfathomable that we are arguing over whether a vaccine policy is something that we should support or not support," she said.

Cannizzaro pointed to Nevada's long history of mandating other vaccines, how effective the new ones are, and the responsibility the Legislature has to protect Nevadans.

"We are not asking for something that is ludicrous or obscene or something that is inappropriate," she said. "We are asking for what is common sense health policy."

With a split vote of 6-6 along party lines, Republicans successfully blocked the BOH request to make the mandates permanent.

RELATED: What makes omicron different from past COVID-19 strains? And what can we do to slow the spread?

State law prevents the department from making another emergency mandate similar to these as well.

The student vaccine mandate expired over the weekend, and the state worker mandate is slated to expire in early January.

In a statement, Nevada System of Higher Education Chancellor Melody Rose said they would comply with the law and allow unvaccinated students to register for spring semester classes.

"Following the direction of the Legislative Commission," the statement read, "any student registration hold based on not having a COVID-19 vaccine must be lifted immediately. Please share this development with your relevant Student Affairs professionals so they can take swift action."

Nevada Health Response said they would continue to seek permanent mandates through a more traditional method than the BOH's appeal to the Interim Legislative Commission called promulgation.

The traditional steps to promulgate regulations include:

  1. The Division of Public and Behavioral Health drafts proposed regulation language and provided it to the Legislative Counsel Bureau (LCB) for edits and drafting.
  2. DPBH assesses which small businesses (for-profit companies with fewer than 150 employees) may be impacted by the regulation and requests feedback on the impact.
  3. Public workshops are hosted to allow for public comment on the regulations.
  4. Regulations are presented to the Board of Health. If approved, they are sent to LCB for addition on the Legislative Commission agenda.
  5. If the Legislative Commission approves, the regulations are filed with the Secretary of State.
  6. The regulation is codified into law by LCB.