Nevada Lawmakers Vote to Overturn Existing Vaccine Mandates for Colleges and Prisons

Two COVID vaccination mandates will end in Nevada after lawmakers did not vote to extend them, which will drop the requirement for state prison workers to be vaccinated, and students at state colleges will no longer have to be vaccinated in order to register for spring semester classes.

The measures were put in place by the Nevada Board of Health in August as 120-day emergency measures, and the state's bipartisan Legislative Commission voted 6-6 along party lines on whether to make the emergency measures permanent, effectively ending the orders as they required majority support to be extended.

The measures could be made permanent if they are enacted by the full state legislature, which is not currently in session but does have a Democratic majority.

The commission that voted to end the requirement is evenly split between Republicans and Democrats.

"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.

Democratic Governor Steve Sisolak's office will continue to seek extensions to the mandates and plans to resubmit the same requirements to the Legislative Commission in 2022, according to a statement from a spokesperson for Sisolak's office, Meghin Delaney.

Nevada, COVID Vaccine, College Students, Prisons
An "I Got My COVID-19 Vaccine" sticker with an image of the Nevada state flag is displayed on a sign at the entrance to a pop-up COVID-19 vaccination clinic at Larry Flynt's Hustler Club Tuesday in Las Vegas, Nevada. Following a vote from state lawmakers, two vaccine mandates are set to end for college students and prison workers in Nevada after the legislators voted 6-6 on whether to extend the emergency measures from the state health department. Ethan Miller/Getty Images

The 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.

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.

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 Esmeralda County, which was released from a masking requirement for vaccinated people in late November.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

UNLV Campus
Two COVID vaccination mandates will end in Nevada after lawmakers did not vote to extend them, which will drop the requirement for state prison workers to be vaccinated, and students at state colleges will no longer have to be vaccinated in order to register for spring semester classes. Above, a UNLV student walks on campus after attending a class at UNLV amid the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) on September 9, 2020, in Las Vegas, Nevada. Ethan Miller/Getty Images