Mississippi among 24 states challenging president’s fourth vaccine mandate

Lynn Fitch
Lynn Fitch(Lynn Fitch)
Published: Dec. 21, 2021 at 4:26 PM CST
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Tuesday, Mississippi joined 23 other states in filing a lawsuit challenging President Joe Biden’s fourth vaccine mandate.

The suit was filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana. The challenge comes less than a month after the federal government issued a mandate that anyone who works for or volunteers with Head Start to get vaccinated against the coronavirus.

The mandate also requires anyone over 2 years old at a Head Start facility to wear a facemask.

In Mississippi, 22,540 children were enrolled in Head Start programs in 2019, according to federal data.

According to a copy of the complaint, if the mandate is allowed to stand, it could endanger jobs and force Head Start programs to close or scale back the number of children they serve.

Head Start provides pre-school education free of charge for low-income families. The mandate would impact an estimated 273,000 staff, up to one million volunteers, and up to 865,000 children, according to a release from Fitch’s office.

“It seems clear that the administration’s plan is to scare enough people with the penalties of non-compliance that they vaccinate against their better judgment and before the courts strike all the mandates down,” said Attorney General Lynn Fitch. “Court after court has hit the pause button against these unconstitutional mandates; yet, the administration has persisted and imposed a fourth.”

“President Biden was wrong with his first vaccine mandate, and he’s been wrong each time since.”

The order referred to by Fitch was issued by the Office of Head Start, the Administration for Children and Families, and the Department of Health and Human Services last month

According to a copy of the mandate found at federalregister.org, all Head Start program staffers, certain Head Start contractors, and volunteers who work in classrooms or directly with children are required to be vaccinated by January 31, 2022.

Those who are granted an exemption from the vaccine must submit to weekly testing for the COVID-19 virus.

While Fitch claims that the mandate would cause people to lose their jobs and force Head Start programs to reduce capacity or close, the federal government argues the new rules are designed specifically to keep centers open and mitigate the spread of the virus.

As of September 2021, 73 percent of all Head Start centers across the country were open for in-person services only, while 14 percent were operating hybrid models with in-person and virtual/remote services, federal data shows. Another 4 percent of Head Start centers were operating virtual-only, while 2 percent remained “entirely closed due to COVID-19,” federal data shows.

Seven percent of Head Start centers did not report, are closed for the season or closed because of natural disasters, the federal register states.

The feds argue that all Head Start centers need to reopen fully because they provide “critical services” to needy children.

Children who attend Head Start receive daily meals, mental health services, training in hygiene, and other benefits.

The median income for families served by Head Start is around $26,000 a year, federal data shows.

Other states joining in the coalition include Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Wyoming, and West Virginia.

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