Knudsen, Manzella to speak at anti-vaccine-mandate event in Sidney on Monday night
Attorney General Austin Knudsen. (Provided by the Montana Attorney General’s Office for the Daily Montanan.)
Attorney General Austin Knudsen and Hamilton Sen. Theresa Manzella will be among those to speak at an event in Sidney on Monday night pushing back on the Sidney Health Center’s recent decision to follow a federal vaccine mandate that requires all hospitals receiving federal Medicaid or Medicare funds to vaccinate their employees.
According to Jordan Hall, who has had a hand in organizing the event, Knudsen, Manzella, Maria Wyrock and “several other legislators and activists” will be speaking at the event. Wyrock is the director of the grassroots group Montanans for Vaccine Choice and has been a staunch opponent of vaccine mandates, at times comparing them to Nazi Germany.
Sen. Steve Hinebauch, R-Wibaux, and Rep. Brandon Ler, R-Savage, will also be in attendance, along with Sidney mayor Rick Norby, according to Hall. Hall is the pastor at Fellowship Baptist Church, where the event is being held, and is the president of Conservatives United for Richland County as well as the founder of the Montana Daily Gazette — a conservative media outlet.
Hall said AG Knudsen will be speaking at the event via Zoom.
At the meeting, Sidney Health Center employees will receive legal advice on how to challenge the hospital’s decision to follow the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services mandate, Hall said.
“Everyone is coming. The hospital is important to everyone. Everyone has a relative who works there,” said Hall, whose wife is a hospital employee.
While the event is meant for Sidney Health Center employees, patients and other members of the public also may attend. But Hall said only Sidney Health Center employees will be allowed to engage in the question and answer portion of the event.
Citing fears of retribution among employees, media is not explicitly allowed at the event, Hall said. The Montana Daily Gazette and RoundUp —a weekly paper covering eastern Montana — will be attending the event. Originally, the Sidney Herald was denied access by organizers, but that decision was reversed, Hall said.
“The press is invited by invitation only and must sign legal docs that all attendees’ names and images be kept private in the press. Several press outlets tried to invite themselves via e-mail. This is a *private* meeting. I’m sorry, but it doesn’t work that way. We will *absolutely* turn away uninvited press at the door, especially biased news sources. – JD Hall,” read a post from the Facebook page Conservatives United for Richland County.
Speaking to the Daily Montanan via phone, Hall was more relaxed about the press attending the event, saying all the organizers ask is the names and faces of Sidney Health Center employees in attendance are not published out of fear of retribution from SHC executives.
The Daily Montanan’s request to attend via Zoom was denied by Hall.
The meeting was organized after the Sidney Health Center announced it would be complying with a new Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services mandate that requires employees working in hospitals that receive Medicare or Medicaid funding to be vaccinated.
On Monday, a federal judge in Missouri temporarily blocked the mandate from going into effect in 10 states, not including Montana. In issuing the injunction, the Trump-appointed judge wrote, “the public would suffer little, if any, harm from maintaining the ‘status quo’ through the litigation of this case.” Earlier this month, a Bush-appointed federal judge rejected Florida’s attempt to block the mandate.
While Montana is not part of either of the lawsuits mentioned above, Knudsen, along with attorneys general from 11 other states, is suing the Biden administration to stop the mandate.
The Montana Hospital Association said it is not aware of any hospital in the state that has chosen not to comply with the mandate, and estimated that failing to comply with the new CMS rule would put $2.1 billion in health care dollars in the state at risk.
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