Supreme Court halts COVID-19 vaccine rule for US businesses

The Supreme Court shown Friday, Jan. 7, 2022, in Washington. The Supreme Court has stopped the Biden administration from enforcing a requirement that employees at large businesses be vaccinated against COVID-19 or undergo weekly testing and wear a mask on the job. The court's order Thursday during a spike in coronavirus cases deals a blow to the administration's efforts to boost the vaccination rate among Americans.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court has stopped the Biden administration from enforcing a requirement that employees at large businesses be vaccinated against COVID-19 or undergo weekly testing and wear a mask on the job.

At the same time, the court is allowing the administration to proceed with a vaccine mandate for most health care workers in the U.S.

The court’s orders Thursday during a spike in coronavirus cases was a mixed bag for the administration’s efforts to boost the vaccination rate among Americans.

The court's conservative majority concluded the administration overstepped its authority by seeking to impose the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's vaccine-or-test rule on U.S. businesses with at least 100 employees. More than 80 million people would have been affected.

“OSHA has never before imposed such a mandate. Nor has Congress. Indeed, although Congress has enacted significant legislation addressing the COVID–19 pandemic, it has declined to enact any measure similar to what OSHA has promulgated here,” the conservatives wrote in an unsigned opinion.

In dissent, the court's three liberals argued that it was the court that was overreaching by substituting its judgments for health experts. “Acting outside of its competence and without legal basis, the Court displaces the judgments of the Government officials given the responsibility to respond to workplace health emergencies," Justices Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor wrote in a joint dissent.

The vaccine mandate that the court will allow to be enforced nationwide covers virtually all health care workers in the country.

In a statement provided to the Cherokee Phoenix, Cherokee Nation Chief of Staff Corey Bunch said CN has been proactive in their efforts to vaccinate their government employees and that the tribe awaits guidance from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services after the high court upheld the vaccine mandate for most health care workers.

“The Cherokee Nation has been proactive in our approach to ensuring we have a healthy workforce and began offering vaccine incentives to our tribal government employees in May 2021. Today more than 81 percent of our workforce is vaccinated,” Bunch said. “With today’s decision by the Supreme Court to uphold the vaccine mandate for the country’s estimated 17 million impacted health care workers, the Cherokee Nation - like all other health care providers - is awaiting further guidance from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to relay to our health care employees. The Cherokee Nation receives more than $100 million in revenue each year from Medicaid and Medicare third-party billing, and this revenue is vital to our operations and ability to increase access to care for our patients. We also want to ensure, of course, that our most vulnerable citizens are protected from COVID-19 when they come to us for their medical care.”

More than 208 million Americans, 62.7% of the population, are fully vaccinated, and more than a third of those have received booster shots, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. All nine justices have gotten booster shots.