By CHARLES OWENS

Bluefield Daily Telegraph

CHARLESTON — Attorney General Patrick Morrisey announced Thursday that West Virginia has joined a 24-state coalition that is vowing to fight President Joe Biden's vaccine mandate on private businesses in court.

Morrisey, in announcing the 24 state challenge to Biden's vaccine mandate, said the 24 state attorneys general acknowledge the COVID-19 vaccine has helped protect millions of Americans, however, he said they take issue with Biden’s use of "flimsy legal arguments, contradictory statements and threatening directives to force others to receive the vaccine."

The 24 state attorneys general sent a letter to Biden on Thursday, urging him to reconsider what they said was "an unlawful vaccine mandate" that, if imposed, the 24 states say they will challenge in court.

Morrisey said the letter contends that reducing vaccine hesitancy requires room for discussion and disagreement – "not mandates that sow division and distrust, rather than promote unity and the public’s health."

In the letter to Biden, the 24 states vow to use "every legal option to uphold the rule of law" and hold Biden accountable should his administration refuse to alter its course.

“Your plan is disastrous and counterproductive,” Morrisey said in the letter to Biden. “From a policy perspective, this edict is unlikely to win hearts and minds — it will simply drive further skepticism. Thus, Mr. President, your vaccination mandate represents not only a threat to individual liberty, but a public health disaster that will displace vulnerable workers and exacerbate a nationwide hospital staffing crisis, with severe consequences for all Americans.”

The 24 state attorneys general argue that Biden's vaccine mandate will force at least some Americans to leave the job market instead of complying, which they argue will place further strain on "an already-too-tight labor market."

Furthermore, they argue that many who will leave their jobs will be health care workers.

The letter further argues that Biden's mandate suggests the vaccinated "need protection from those who, for whatever personal reason, choose not to or cannot receive the COVID-19 shot" – which they argue is the opposite message medical experts want to convey about the efficacy of vaccines, Morrisey said in the press release announcing the 24-state challenge.

The attorneys general contend Biden’s mandate sidesteps Congress and reaches far beyond the intent of the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA), Morrisey said. They also argue OSHA was directed toward occupational safety involving dangers at work because of one’s work as opposed to dangers occurring in society generally, including at work, the letter from the 24 states attorneys general reads.

Morrisey said the rarely used emergency standard relied upon by Biden with his mandate has been utilized just seven times since 1971 and just once since 1983. He said the most recent instance, earlier this summer, is being challenged, and five of the previous six uses were vacated or stayed to some degree by the courts.

West Virginia joined the South Carolina-led letter with Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, Utah and Wyoming.

Virginia is not a part of the vaccine mandate challenge.

— Contact Charles Owens at cowens@bdtonline.com. Follow him @BDTOwens

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