The Supreme Court on Thursday blocked the Biden administration’s COVID-19 vaccine-or-test mandate for businesses with 100 or more workers, but kept the mandate for health care workers at federally funded health care facilities.
The COVID-19 vaccine mandate for health care workers requires all employees at hospitals or other facilities that receive Medicare or Medicaid payments from the government to be fully vaccinated. This affects more than 17 million health care workers, according to the White House.
The blocked mandate would have required workers at all companies of at least 100 workers be vaccinated against COVID-19 or produce a weekly negative test. The rule, issued by the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration, would have covered about 84 million employees, according to the Supreme Court’s opinion.
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Louisiana, Texas, Utah, South Carolina and Mississippi joined with businesses as well as religious and advocacy organizations to file for a permanent injunction against the mandate, and it was temporarily blocked by a federal appeals panel in Louisiana in November before being reinstated after a decision by the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in Cincinnati in December.
The Supreme Court’s vote on Thursday to block the employee mandate was 6 to 3, while the vote to uphold the health care worker mandate was 5 to 4, The New York Times reported. According to the Times, members of the conservative court majority were previously doubtful that the White House had the congressional authorization to put these requirements into place.
The decision comes as COVID-19 cases are rapidly on the rise across the US due to the emergence of the highly infectious omicron variant. Currently, there are more than 155,000 people being treated for COVID-19 in hospitals across the nation, the Department of Health and Human Services reported. The US President Joe Biden announced Thursday that he will send military medical personnel to New York and New Jersey to treat COVID patients in hospitals.
Outside of federal rules, states and cities have enacted their own COVID-19 vaccine mandates, including in Philadelphia where all city workers must be vaccinated by Jan. 14. Friday’s New York Governor. Kathy Hochul joined California and New Mexico in creating a booster mandate for all state health care workers.
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