I have to hand it to the Wyoming Republican Party chairman: When it comes to throwing tantrums to get his political way, nobody does it better than Frank Eathorne.

His histrionic response to Gov. Mark Gordon not yet calling a meaningless special legislative session to fight vaccine mandates would be funny if it wasn’t likely to be effective. He’ll almost certainly bully enough GOP legislators to make the special session happen. It would be a waste of money, yes. But far more harmful, it would send exactly the wrong message about a health crisis we need to get under control now.

Opinion

Eathorne wrote to the Legislature’s leaders that he’s fed up with Gordon’s lack of urgency on the issue. “Wyoming’s people need to see action — and confident leadership. … We believe a majority of legislators favor a special session,” the chairman wrote. “THERE IS NO TIME TO WASTE.”

For starters, there is no vaccine mandate in place to do anything about, because President Joe Biden’s executive order still has to go through the rule-making process. That has to happen through OSHA, the regulatory agency charged with protecting American workers from “grave danger.”

If the 700,000 deaths due to COVID-19 doesn’t meet that standard, I’d hate to see what Eathorne considers a real threat.

Except I already know — it’s the fear of having elected members of his own party who won’t toe the line and follow his extreme-right agenda. Republicans have stoked so much fear about the federal government trying to end the pandemic through vaccinations that it’s become their bread-and-butter issue. They believe it’s their ticket back to the White House in 2024.

Choosing to keep the pandemic alive to gain a political advantage is a complete betrayal of the public’s health and safety. It’s deplorable. And it’s not the only example: How many lives have ended prematurely because Wyoming lawmakers have refused to expand Medicaid?

Wyoming has lost nearly 1,000 people to the coronavirus. Instead of promoting a safe, effective and free vaccine that will keep them out of hospitals, Republican leaders have pushed malaria drugs, bleach and horse dewormers on their faithful followers. What’s the harm in a little snakeoil so long as the anti-vaxxers keep marching!

In reality, Biden’s so-called “mandate” isn’t one at all. It would create two options for employees at businesses with more than 100 employees: get the vaccine or take a COVID-19 test once a week. Both would create a safer work environment.

How, pray tell, is that different than requiring certain workers to pass drug tests, wear seatbelts or not smoke in the office?

If employees think their rights are being violated by having a swab put up their nose, I have news for them: There are plenty of other people ready to do their jobs and respect the health of their co-workers.

It’s far past time for Wyomingites to get vaccinated. Sadly, I can guarantee you that this disease is not a hoax: I’ve lost two people close to me from it in the past year. One friend had some underlying medical issues and died before the vaccine was available. The other was young and had been healthy his whole life. He chose to not be vaccinated.

Only 41% of Wyoming residents are fully vaccinated, giving the state one of the lowest rates in the nation. But here’s the corresponding number to focus on: the Department of Health says 96% of the COVID-19 patients filling Wyoming hospitals are unvaccinated.

The misinformation being circulated about the vaccine, meanwhile, is incredible. Here’s what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says: The vaccine does not contain microchips. It does not alter your DNA. It does not turn you into a magnet. It does not affect fertility in either sex. It does not infect you with COVID-19.

But if you ingest bleach, as former President Donald Trump once famously suggested, that will ruin your organs and kill you.

Choosing to keep the pandemic alive to gain a political advantage is a complete betrayal of the public’s health and safety.

Kerry Drake

Misinformation spread by right-wing outlets like Fox News, NewsMax and the OAN Network; on social media networks platforms Facebook, Twitter and YouTube; and the conspiracy theories your crazy uncle spouts are deadly, too. The World Health Organization deems it an “infodemic.” U.S Surgeon General Vivek Murthy said the problem “poses an imminent and insidious threat to our nation’s health.”

Why are so few people in Wyoming and throughout the country listening?

One of the reasons is because of people like Eathorne, who immediately pounced on the idea of a legislative session to fight Biden’s vaccine “mandate.” He’s not about to take no for an answer.

Gordon’s initial reaction was to call the mandate Biden’s decision a “complete disregard for the rule of law and the freedoms individuals and private companies enjoy under our Constitution.”

But that was several weeks ago, and the governor hasn’t called the special session he was considering. Maybe he got legal advice he didn’t expect, since there’s absolutely no reason to call lawmakers back to work now. Federal law is supreme, so no matter what the state does, it’s likely to be upheld in court.

Gordon may be waiting for legislators to do it themselves. His response to the pandemic has been wishy-washy from the start, angering people of all political stripes. Gordon hemmed and hawed for months about a mask mandate before finally ordering (but declining to enforce) one.

Now he has Eathorne breathing down his neck. I’d tell the chairman to take a hike.

Gordon won’t, of course. He’s walking a political tightrope, trying to please his party’s right-wing because he sees it as his path to re-election.

Governor, here’s advice you don’t want to hear: Your party leaders decided long ago that you’ll never be conservative enough to get their support. They haven’t forgiven you for beating their candidates, Foster Friess and Harriet Hageman, in 2018. You will have primary challengers, and guess what? Some Democrats who changed parties to vote for you won’t do it again. Neither will many of the moderate Republicans I’ve talked to.

So why not do the right thing, stop this anti-vaccine madness and protect everyone? It will earn people’s respect. Bringing an end to this pandemic will do what Wyoming needs most: return the state to normal.

Kerry Drake

Veteran Wyoming journalist Kerry Drake has covered Wyoming for more than four decades, previously as a reporter and editor for the Wyoming Tribune-Eagle and Casper Star-Tribune. He lives in Cheyenne and...

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38 Comments

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  1. Grace Smith.
    The most mature and informed person in Laramie County.
    Masks are not legally required.

  2. Great column! You wrote what needs to be written. Now, if only people would listen.
    I don’t understand how getting a vaccine has anything to do with politics. Those who are forcing such ties should be ashamed.

  3. “So called” mandate. Really?
    Really??
    Years from now, Democrats will say they were just following orders.

  4. Many people that are refusing the vaccine do so because they researched the information from scientists that test vaccines. We would all love to be able to put complete faith in the FDA and the CDC, but it is tough when there is such a strong effort to censor anyone with a dissenting view. Everyone should keep in mind all the FDA approved drugs that have cost the pharmaceutical industry billions of dollars because they ended up causing terrible side-effects. Just because someone says it is “safe and effective” does not make it so. We will not truly know for years to come. People that do not take the vaccine may be trying to protect their families because they fear they might not be able to work because of side-effects. Why do we consider someone selfish because they do not feel comfortable putting an unknown substance in their body? Those that are vaccinated are not protected from getting COVID, that is already proven. Why then should we accept the rhetoric that the unvaccinated are to blame. Doctors and nurses that have seen both the results of COVID infection and the side effects of the vaccine that are willing to quit their jobs rather than be vaccinated might just know something that is being suppressed from the rest of us. What has happened to common sense?

  5. “Malaria drugs”? I had covid and covid pneumonia. Ivermectin probably saved my life. Ivermectin has saved the lives of many covid victims. This fact is labeled “misinformation” and censored. “Misinformation” is any fact or scientific study that contradicts the narrative of the vaccine NAZIs. The vaccine NAZIs don’t care about saving lives the care about forcing slaves to obey

  6. Sage words, Kerry. Unfortunately, these partisan puppets are unwilling to act in our state’s best interests. Their actions are dictated by out-of-state party bosses, who demand that they toe the party line so exactly that a single deviation from it, no matter how well justified (for example, voting to condemn a rogue President who incited a riot in an attempt to overturn democracy), is grounds for expulsion .

    We in Wyoming used to have an independent streak; we resisted outside influences and instead looked out for ourselves and our neighbors. Those attitudes are, apparently, gone. And our state will suffer until and unless they return. Only then can we, er, make Wyoming great again.

    1. the same people who are screaming “NO” to the vaccine and/or mask use have ALL been vaccinated. the fox news talking heads, senators, representatives, etc…..

      those in the media who are screaming the loudest about being against mask mandates in schools send their own children to private schools that require masks.

      fox news won’t let anyone in their building without proof of vaccination. but yet, “vaccine passports” are considered the antichrist by their viewers.

      why are the gullible listening to people who are telling them what to do, but don’t practice it themselves?

  7. Thanks for another great article and observation. Since the early 90’s Wyoming has been forced fed Rightwing misinformation on AM radio from Limbaugh to others. The state wallows in domestic extremism pushed by the now autocratic loving GOP. Covid has no boundaries, so we will watch our neigh-bors take their moo- dicine. Anti Vaxers are a dying breed.

  8. Who funds this organization? It’s easy to research. Answer this and it explains everything. Not fooling anyone.

      1. An opinion piece should have at least a little honesty in it.
        Not that it matters to some people.

      2. Obviously. But when only one-sided “opinion” is endorsed by sites like this, and discourse is censored by “moderators”, while agents such are yourself are free to troll others with impunity, it’s called “propaganda”.

        Dasvidaniya Comrade!!

        *C’mon censors, what are you afraid of??*

        1. Trolling implies that the truth isn’t being posted. Debunked and false information is what you are concerned about not being allowed to be posted? Why is that?

          1. “Truth” defined by solely by one party, or perspective that desperately tries to censor discourse or questioning is not “truth”.

            P.S. You can’t possibly know what is being censored by the “moderators”, unless you are affiliated with this corporation, in which case you are a fraud.

          2. If I had to guess what is being moderated, I’d imagine it is demonstrably false statements and conspiracy ramblings. If you feel the need to post such stuff, try to add sources where you are getting your “information” from, if there are any sources.

            The far right conspiracy theorists aren’t being censored. There is no need for the persecution complex. Maybe people are just getting tired of listening to the unproven nonsense.

    1. Individual citizens of Wyoming as well as those from other states help fund this. You may want to send them a few dollars yourself in support of independent journalism.

  9. The elephant in the room is a glaring lack of ethics and an obvious desire to scapegoat others. Shame on authoritarian Karens. Shame.

  10. Also consider what loading the hospital beds with Covid patients is doing to prevent those needing other emergency medical intervention. Do vaccine deniers feel more privileged than a person with a brain aneurism to take up that bed, when what they are now suffering from could have been prevented with a little common sense? This will go down as the most politically motivated, conspiracy generated stupidity of the century.

  11. Two of the easiest things I have done in the past year is getting the Moderna vaccine and wearing a mask when need be. Filling my car with gas and getting dressed in the morning are about 10 times harder.

    1. Perhaps wyofile didn’t want vaccine lies and misinformation in the comments section of an article about……. vaccine lies and misinformation?

      MRNA has been around for decades.
      The vaccine does not interact with your DNA or alter your genes.
      There is no tracking device.
      The vaccine is NOT in violation of the Nuremberg protocols.
      The vaccine does NOT make you magnetic.
      There were clinical trials for the vaccine.
      The vaccine is NOT a form of population control.

      help protect yourself and your community and get the shot.

  12. And yet Gordan has time to take a photo op with Abbot at the border- I guess he thinks that will somehow increase his creed with the Crazy caucus, which, as another writer pointed out, ain’t gonna happen.

  13. Just a short comment. If you don’t want to get a vaccine please wear a mask. It is a manner of respect for your fellow human being. Isn’t that what Wyoming is all about. I was born here 65 years ago and Wyoming was all about helping your neighbor. No one is forcing anybody to get a vaccine

    I got my vaccine. It was not a big deal. I still wear a mask because I don’t want to potentially spread it to somebody else

    I personally know 2 people that died from covid. Several people that will probably have life long problems.

    Making this a political issue is plain old fashion stupidity. It is a health issue that can be beaten if we respect our fellow man

  14. Thanks Kerry. Great article!
    So good to hear people like you speaking up and putting peoples’ health first.
    We in Australia have similar challenges in some communities.

  15. I have just finished a bout with Covid. I didn’t get the vaccine and will not in the future. What I saw with the VA medical system is their total unwillingness to provide any medication to help someone with this virus. It seems that this is the case with many doctors around the country, VA and private. What are they thinking? Even with the flu medication to mitigate the disease is dispensed. My experience shows me that the whole thing is politically motivated to control the population through fear. I think it’s long past time to come together whether you believe in the vaccine or not and tell the powers that be to either develop or dispense reasonably priced medication that will help mitigate the disease.

    1. There is already a widely available medication to mitigate COVID and it is 100% free. All you have to do is stop refusing to take it for no legitimate reason whatsoever.
      (Hint: It’s the vaccine)

  16. Gordon, like most Wyoming politicians, is afraid of the demented covid-denying and vaccine refusing MAGAbillies. Poor little man: living in fear of ignoramuses.

  17. I likewise recently lost a loved one to COVID-19. He was 90, deeply Republican, and a life member of the NRA. In so many ways he fit the profile of Mr. Eathorne’s wing of the GOP.

    But he respected science. He wore a mask in public, maintained social distance, and took the vaccine as soon as he could get it. He thought President Trump deserved credit for Operation Warp Speed.

    He lived in an assisted living center. Nearly half the staff was unvaccinated. The plague came back into the facility shortly after the big Sturgis bike rally. He contracted a breakthrough infection, one we believe could have been avoided had the staff of the center gotten vaccinated.

    We buried him, a veteran, in the Black Hills National Cemetery.

    He did his duty. Why can’t others see the patriotic duty to get the vaccination to protect themselves, their families, and their fellow Americans?

    1. That is a sad story, Dan. But at least your friend made it to 90. He had a long life . Many victims of the Delta Variant, that apparently passes easily through the air, are under fifty. Some as young as thirty.

  18. Gordon’s covid response has been deadly. My grandson took the virus back to his mother and father from his high school because of his vaccine policy and no masks policy in schools. His mother will probably need an oxygen respirator the rest of her life. It didn’t have to be this way

  19. Thank you Kerry for very insightful and honest words. It is time for our Governor to do the right thing. He has the opportunity to do the right thing for our citizens. I have always believed that our WY elected officials were elected to do the most good for the majority of our population so far Mark Gordon has not done that especially when it comes to our health and safety. I’m not sure how he could sleep at night knowing he could prevent death and support our over taxed and tired healthcare workers. Stand up Governor for the lives of our citizens and help get folks vaccinated before it is too late. Do the right thing!