Vaccine warrants take center stage at U.S. Supreme Court
WASHINGTON – The Biden administration’s coronavirus protection demands to persuade millions of healthcare professionals and other workers to get vaccinated are taking center stage at the Supreme Court.
More than half of states and coalitions of business and religious groups are asking judges for emergency measures to block the administration’s national vaccination or testing mandate for large companies, which is said to cover around 80 million workers .
And the administration itself is asking the court to lift lower court rulings that have blocked a vaccination mandate for healthcare workers at facilities that receive Medicare and Medicaid funds. This involves around 17 million workers.
The court has requested an additional briefing in these cases by December 30, which suggests rulings at the start of the new year.
The calls for the tribunal’s involvement come at a time of great tension and uncertainty in the pandemic, with the highly transmissible variant of omicron contributing to a sharp rise in infections and causing state and local governments to fall out.
New York City said on Monday it was seeing a massive increase in cases, Boston imposed new restrictions on indoor activities, and Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser, D reinstated the city’s mask requirement and announced a vaccination mandate for DC government employees.
Judges generally supported decisions by local governments and universities to require vaccination. But the court was skeptical of the power of federal agencies to impose pandemic-related responses. For example, he ended a moratorium on evictions imposed by the Centers for Disease Control, saying it exceeded the agency’s authority.
The workplace of the judges has been closed to the public since March 2020; court officials say all judges have been vaccinated. They began hearing cases in person this fall, but with limited attendance. Lawyers appearing in the High Court and accredited journalists observing the proceedings are not required to be vaccinated but must have received negative test results.
A split panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit on Friday reinstated the Biden administration’s coronavirus vaccination policy for large private companies, overturning an earlier court ruling that suspended the one of the White House signing efforts to reduce transmission and reduce the case counts.
Almost immediately, the decision was appealed to the Supreme Court, and judges on Monday registered more than 10 emergency requests to stop the decision.
Ministry of Labor rules say employers with more than 100 workers must require that they be vaccinated or undergo weekly testing and mandatory masking. There are exceptions for employees who do not work on site or with others, as well as for religious and medical reasons. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has extended the compliance deadline to February 9.
In a brief filed for 27 states, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost, R, called the OSHA requirement a “historically unprecedented administrative command.”
“This case does not raise the question of whether vaccines or vaccination mandates are wise or desirable,” he wrote. “Instead, it presents the narrow questions of whether OSHA had the power to issue the warrant and whether it legally exercised the authority it did have.”
Appeals of the OSHA requirement have been filed in virtually every regional court across the country and consolidated for the 6th Circuit panel to consider.
Justice Jane B. Stranch said Congress intended OSHA to be able to impose temporary emergency standards in dire peril.
âVaccinations and physicals are both tools OSHA has historically used to contain disease in the workplace,â wrote Stranch, a candidate for President Barack Obama.
The new requirement âis not a further expansion of the power of OSHA; it is an existing application of authority to a new and dangerous global pandemic. “
Stranch was joined by Judge Julia Smith Gibbons, a candidate for President George W. Bush. The dissenting judge was Joan Larsen, a candidate for President Donald Trump.
âThe virus that causes COVID-19 is of course not just a working condition. Its potency lies in the fact that it exists wherever an infected person can be – at home, at school or in the grocery store, to name a few, âLarsen wrote. âSo how can OSHA regulate an employee’s exposure to this product? “
The requirement for healthcare workers has received a mixed response in lower courts. The United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit dismissed a challenge, but two other courts have prevented the requirement from taking place in 24 states combined.
United States Solicitor General Elizabeth B. Prelogar has called on judges to allow the requirement, which includes a religious and medical exemption, to take effect as scheduled on January 4.
“It is hard to imagine a health and safety condition more paradigmatic than a requirement that workers in hospitals, nursing homes and other medical facilities take the measures that most effectively prevent the transmission of a virus deadly to vulnerable patients, âshe wrote.
The Supreme Court refused to suspend vaccine requirements for public employees, university students and healthcare workers. The three most conservative judges objected when the requirement does not include an exemption on religious grounds.
Along with administrative cases, the court is also being asked to end a San Diego school system requirement and a New Mexico state requirement for some of its workers.