The US Supreme Court on Thursday blocked President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 vaccination or testing mandate for large companies, a policy that conservative justices deemed an improper imposition on the lives and health of many Americans, while endorsing a separate federal vaccination requirement for health care. facilities.
Biden expressed disappointment with the conservative majority courtdecision to stop his administration’s rule that requires vaccines or weekly COVID-19 tests for employees in companies with at least 100 employees. Biden said it is now up to states and employers to decide whether to require workers to “take the simple and effective step of getting vaccinated.”
The court was divided on both cases, focusing on federal regulations related to the pandemic at a time of rising coronavirus infections driven by the Omicron variant in a nation that leads the world with more than 845,000 deaths from COVID-19.
It failed 6-3, with the majority of the six conservative judges and the dissent of three liberal judges, blocking the rule involving large companies, a policy that applied to more than 80 million employees. The court majority downplayed the risk that COVID-19 poses specifically in the workplace, comparing it instead to the “everyday” pollution and crime dangers faced by people everywhere.
The vote was 5-4 to allow the health workers rule, which calls for vaccinating about 10.3 million workers in 76,000 health care facilities, including hospitals and nursing homes that accept money from government programs. Medicare and Medicaid health insurance for the elderly, disabled and low-income. American people. Two Conservatives, Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Brett Kavanaugh, joined the Liberals in the majority in that case.
In a statement, Biden said the court’s decision allowing the healthcare worker’s mandate will “save lives” and his administration will enforce it. Workers must be vaccinated by the end of February.
The court heard arguments last Friday in the legal fight over temporary injunctions issued in November by two federal agencies with the goal of increasing US vaccination rates and making workplaces and healthcare settings be safer. The cases tested the presidential powers to address a growing public health crisis.
In an unsigned ruling, the court said the rule affecting large businesses, issued by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), was not an ordinary use of federal power.
“Instead, it is a significant invasion of the lives and health of a large number of employees,” the court said.
“Allowing OSHA to regulate the hazards of daily life, simply because most Americans have jobs and face those same risks while working, would significantly expand OSHA’s regulatory authority without clear authorization from Congress,” the court added.
Challengers led by the state of Ohio and the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), which represents employers, asked judges to block OSHA’s rule after a lower court lifted an injunction against it. The companies were supposed to start showing they were in compliance as of last Monday.
Disagreeing, Judge Stephen Breyer wrote on behalf of liberal justices that the decision “hampers the federal government’s ability to counter the unprecedented threat that COVID-19 poses to our nation’s workers.”
“Today’s decision is a welcome relief for America’s small businesses, who are still trying to get their business back on track since the beginning of the pandemic,” said Karen Harned, executive director of the NFIB’s legal arm.
The superior court blocked a dec. 17 decision of the 6 based in Cincinnatithe United States Circuit Court of Appeals which had allowed the mandate to go into effect.
In the case of healthcare facilities, the differently composed majority of the court concluded that the regulation “fits neatly” within the power that Congress gave the government to impose conditions on Medicaid and Medicare funding, which includes policies that protect health and safety.
“After all, ensuring that providers take steps to avoid transmitting a dangerous virus to their patients is consistent with the fundamental principle of the medical profession: do harm first,” the court said.
Four conservative judges disagreed with the healthcare center’s decision, concluding that Congress had not given the federal agency the authority to require vaccines for millions of healthcare workers. In dissent, Judge Samuel Alito doubted that the agency could “put more than 10 million health workers to choose between their jobs or irreversible medical treatment.”
The justices lifted the orders of federal judges in Missouri and Louisiana blocking the policy in 24 states, allowing the administration to enforce it almost across the country. The execution was blocked in Texas by a lower court in a separate litigation that is not in dispute before the Supreme Court.
Gerald Harmon, chairman of the American Medical Association’s physicians group, said that while he is pleased that the court has allowed the health worker mandate, a broader rule is also needed in the workplace.
“Transmission in the workplace has been a major factor in the spread of COVID-19,” added Harmon. “Now more than ever, workers in all settings across the country need common sense and evidence-based protections against COVID-19 infection, hospitalization and death.”