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State of Emergency Issued in Response to Vaccine Mandate

Maury County, Tenn., Mayor Andy Ogles issued the order Thursday afternoon in response to a federal mandate requiring health care providers that receive federal Medicare and Medicaid funding to have all staff members vaccinated for COVID-19.

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(TNS) - Maury County Mayor Andy Ogles, joined by fellow Republican leaders and area mayors, has issued a State of Emergency in Maury County in an effort to "secure the liberties" of health care workers in the county.

Ogles issued the order Thursday afternoon in response to a federal mandate requiring health care providers that receive federal Medicare and Medicaid funding to have all staff members vaccinated for COVID-19.

He presented the order on Facebook Live, surrounded by elected officials including state Rep. Scott Cepicky, R- Culleoka.

The order comes days after groups of protestors gathered in front of Columbia's Maury Regional Medical Center in opposition to a federal mandate, requiring all health care workers to be vaccinated for the COVID-19 vaccine.

"It is an order to protect health care workers in Maury County from harassment, intimation, adverse actions and termination for exerting religious exemptions or rights of conscious an their constitutionally protected right to voluntary informed consent as it pertains to the COVIS-19 vaccine," Ogles said.

During the live stream, Ogles argued the mandate will lead to the disruption of healthcare services and the county's medical infrastructure.

"There is no denying that this last 20 months have been challenging wrought with fear heartbreak and personal sacrifice," Ogles said. "We offer prayers to all of those affected by COVID-19."

Leaders from Maury Regional did not appear to be present at Ogles' announcement on Facebook Live.

Maury Regional Chief Medical Officer Martin Chaney, who is currently serving as interim CEO, recently said 72% of the medical center's staff, a total of 2,042 people, are fully-vaccinated or in the process of doing so.

During a meeting with county commissioners this week, Chaney emphasized that the medical center will thoroughly review employees' request for exemptions.

The recent Centers for Medicaid & Medicare Services mandate calls for all medical staff to be fully vaccinated by Jan. 4 and all medical centers must have an established vaccination plan by Dec. 6.

Hospitals and medical centers across the nation face losing financial support from CMS if they do not comply with the mandate.

Leaders of Columbia's Maury Regional Medical Center confirmed earlier this week that it would lose more than $100 million in finical support if it does not follow the mandate.

"There has been a consistent abuse of power by the executive branch of the United States," Ogles said. "No power to regulate health and medical practices was delegated to the United States ... If there is ever a time to unite, stand together and fight, it is now. I will leverage every tool at my disposal to protect this county and all the residents who reside here. I am resolute in my conviction, and I will not relent."

Amid the pandemic the conservative mayor has grown his online following with several announcements and other live broadcasts shared on his Facebook page.

Ogles, Republican representatives and the Maury County Republican Party have consistently voiced uniform opposition to mandates set in place amid the pandemic, opposing restrictions on businesses and mask mandates early in the pandemic and now vaccination requirements set in place by the federal government's executive branch.

Ogle's was joined by fellow conservative leaders including Cepicky, Rep. Todd Warner, R- Chapel Hill, Rep. Clay Doggett, R- Pulaski and Rep. Brandon Ogles, R- Franklin, among other Republican county leaders and party members from southern Middle Tennessee.

"We are very concerned about moving forward with this," Cepicky said. "We understand what Mayor Ogles is doing, and we hope that other mayors will take the initiative on this and protect those hospital systems and workers across the state so that we can make sure we provide the proper healthcare for those individuals that need it in our hospitals and nursing homes in our facilities."

Cepicky said that members of the General Assembly have issued a letter that is being sent to hospitals across the state, asking the institutions to honor religious exemptions for the vaccine.

"There is a health care worker shortage here in Tennessee, and we are here today to help protect those folks and help protect Tennesseans," Warner said.

Doggett emphasized that the men and women, who were commended as heroes amid the pandemic are now being attacked under the coming mandate.

"I worry about those families of those healthcare workers," Doggett said. "I worry about the patients, who now won't have any providers. Something needs to be done, and I am glad we are taking a step in the right direction."

Rep. Brandon Ogles said he and Cepicky have introduced legislation to the state's criminal code that will protect healthcare workers from losing their jobs from forced vaccination.

"It's wrong, and we are going to make it criminal in this state if we have our way," he said.

In late October, Cepicky introduced, House Bill 9006, which prohibits discrimination based on a person's COVID-19 vaccination status or whether the person has a COVID-19 immunity passport.

In closing, Mayor Ogles encouraged the county's health workers to file for religious exemption.

"File your religious exemption. Make them fire you," Ogles said. "Do not cave. Then, we will take it from there. Be blessed. Just know, we are here, and we are fighting for you."

Reach Mike Christen at mchristen@c-dh.net. Follow him on Twitter at @MikeChristenCDH and on Instagram @michaelmarco. Please consider supporting his work and that of other Daily Herald journalists by subscribing to the publication.

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