Student Denied Court Order to Register for Classes After Arguing He Has COVID Immunity

A college student at the University of Nevada Reno who said he has COVID-19 immunity was denied an emergency court order to register for in-person spring classes as he waits for his federal lawsuit against the school's mandatory vaccination policy to further proceed.

Jacob Gold, 18, filed an emergency request in November to get the court's permission to register for spring classes, or he would be forced to take strictly online courses or drop out of college.

Gold claims he doesn't need the vaccine since he had already been infected and recovered from coronavirus, and that his immunity is superior compared to his vaccinated classmates. The lawsuit alleges that the university's vaccination policy is "immoral, unethical and illegal."

U.S. District Judge James Selna, who denied Gold's request for the temporary order, said that the university is protecting its campus with its mandatory vaccination policy, and Gold hasn't established a constitutional right to refuse the vaccination.

"This [policy] far outweighs any harm Gold may face in choosing between receiving a medically approved vaccination or receiving his education in an alternative manner," he wrote in the ruling.

Selna also said that the school's officials "are attempting to protect a campus community with thousands of students, faculty and staff from a deadly infectious disease."

Covid-19 Vaccine, Moderna
A college student at the University of Nevada Reno who said he has COVID-19 immunity was denied an emergency court order to register for in-person spring classes. Above, vials of the COVID-19 vaccine by Moderna (C) and Pfizer / BioNTech against the novel coronavirus stand on a table in a vaccination center in Sonthofen, southern Germany, on November 30, 2021. Christof Stache/ AFP/Getty Images

Selna was assigned the case last week from the central district of California after all but one of the 11 judges serving in the U.S. district for Nevada recused themselves from the case. None of the judges who recused themselves from the case offered any specific reasons. Federal court records state only that they had "good cause."

Debra Kempi, clerk of court for Nevada's U.S. district, said there's no rule or regulation that requires recusals if a party to the case previously served as a judge in the district. She said that while it's not common to have to seek a judge outside the district to handle a case, it does happen.

According to Gold's lawsuit, the mandatory vaccination policy violates his "right of self-determination, personal autonomy and bodily integrity, as well as the right to reject medical treatment." Should the university's policy be allowed to remain, he'll be required to be vaccinated to meet his academic requirements, "congregate in the dorm where he lives and exist normally as a healthy and wholesome college student here in the land of the free and the home of the brave."

Gold "declines COVID-19 testing as an intrusive bodily intrusion, one that would subject Jonah to the unreasonable risk of a false positive with resulting draconian contact tracing and isolation," the lawsuit says.

But the judge said Gold is unlikely to prevail in his argument that subjecting himself to testing would violate his constitutional protections.

"Nasal swab testing for COVID-19 does not create an intrusion under the skin, does not involve any genetic testing and there is no use of the sample for law enforcement purposes," the ruling states.

University President Brian Sandoval is the lead defendant. He was a federal judge in Reno from 2005-09 before serving two terms as Republican governor.

One of Gold's lawyers is Joey Gilbert, a former professional boxer and Reno defense attorney who is running for Nevada's GOP gubernatorial nomination. He has aligned himself with backers of ex-President Donald Trump and says he was in Washington D.C. outside the U.S. Capitol during the Jan. 6 riot.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.