Nevada axes vaccine rule for prison staff, college students

December 22, 2021 GMT

CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) — Nevada lawmakers on Tuesday overruled two vaccination mandates passed as emergency measures by the state Board of Health earlier this year, lifting requirements on college students and state health and prison workers.

In party-line votes, lawmakers on the Legislative Commission voted 6-6 on whether to expand the Board of Health’s emergency measures into more permanent regulations. Without majority support, Nevada cannot extend the mandates.

Democrats make up the majority in the Nevada Legislature, which meets every other year, but the commission is split equally between the parties.

“To me, it is unfathomable that we are arguing over whether a vaccine policy is something that we should support,” state Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro said.

The votes overturn two August decisions from the state Board of Health requiring vaccines. A mandate on state workers applied to Department of Corrections and Health and Human Services workers as well as employees or contractors working with “vulnerable populations,” such as in youth or residential treatment centers. A Nevada System of Higher Education mandate required students at state colleges, with few exceptions, to show proof of vaccination to register for classes in the spring semester.

The board of health cannot extend the mandates, which were passed as 120-day emergency measures, and any permanent requirements would need to be passed by the full Legislature — which isn’t scheduled to meet until 2023 — or win approval as long-term regulations from the board and legislative commission.

Following the vote, Nevada System of Higher Education Chancellor Melody Rose said all holds on student registration due to vaccination status would be lifted.

She said in a memo that the Legislative Commission’s action was “effectively eliminating the legal basis for student vaccines to be a requirement for registration for classes.”

Coronavirus cases are once again on the rise in Nevada. The state has reported five cases of the omicron variant, the positivity rate as measured as a 14-day average is rising and the Las Vegas area is reporting more cases than it has since the peak of last summer’s surge in August.

Gov. Steve Sisolak’s health response team plans to continue to pursue extending the vaccine mandates and will resubmit them to the Legislative Commission next year, Meghin Delaney, the governor’s spokesperson, said in a statement.

State health officials also announced Tuesday that masking requirements for vaccinated people will be lifted Friday in rural Storey and White Pine counties because the two counties had low or moderate risk of transmission of the coronavirus for the second straight week.

Storey and White Pine counties join Esmaraldo County, which was released from a masking requirement for vaccinated people in late November.


Metz is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.