COVID-19 and the U.S. courts: challenges to Biden vaccine rules

Courts have recently blocked some of the Biden administration’s rules and regulations aimed at increasing U.S. vaccination against COVID-19, which has killed more than 750,000 Americans and weighs on economic growth.

The vaccine requirements have been challenged by Republican state attorneys general, businesses and religious groups that alleged the administration exceeded its authority.

Separately, courts have upheld vaccine requirements imposed by private employers, universities and state and local governments.

Below is a look at the various Biden administration vaccine regulations and the status of the legal challenges.

WORKPLACE VACCINE OR TESTING RULE

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in November issued a rule requiring all employers with 100 or more employees to ensure their staff are fully vaccinated or produce a negative COVID-19 test once a week and wear a face covering.

The requirement, which will apply to over 80 million workers, was blocked in early November by a federal appeals court for the duration of the legal proceedings. The U.S. government is seeking a review of that decision.

HEALTHCARE VACCINE MANDATE

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) said in early November it would require COVID-19 vaccinations for workers in most healthcare facilities that receive Medicare or Medicaid reimbursement, from hospitals to home health agencies.

This requirement would apply to over 17 million healthcare workers, who would have to get an initial shot by Dec. 6 and a second dose by Jan. 4. Rulings in late November by federal judges in Louisiana and St. Louis blocked the requirement nationwide.

The government said in court filings that it may ask a federal appeals court to revive the CMS mandate.

CONTRACTOR MANDATE

President Joe Biden issued an executive order in September that requires federal contracts to include clauses mandating contractors get their employees vaccinated against COVID-19, which could potentially affect millions of workers.

A federal judge in Kentucky on Nov. 30 temporarily blocked the administration from enforcing the rule in the states that filed the lawsuit – Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee.

Challenges in other states are being litigated.

FEDERAL WORKER MANDATE

Biden issued an executive order in September requiring federal employees to get vaccinated by Nov. 22 against COVID-19 to ensure the safety and efficiency of the civil service, and 96.5% of federal workers were considered in compliance.

At least 17 lawsuits challenged the order and no judge granted a request to temporarily block the rule, generally because they determined the government could mandate a vaccine when acting as an employer.

(Reporting by Tom Hals in Wilmington, Delaware; Editing by Noeleen Walder, Lisa Shumaker and Kevin Liffey)

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