Healthcare Workers and Biden Administration Denial from the Supreme Court.

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The Supreme Court on Thursday blocked the Biden administration from enforcing its sweeping vaccine-or-test requirements for large private companies.

But the conservative-majority court allowed a vaccine mandate to stand for medical facilities that take Medicare or Medicaid payments.

The OSHA mandate required that workers at businesses with 100 or more employees get vaccinated or submit a negative Covid test weekly to enter the workplace.



Despite the Supreme Court'sThursday ruling, the Biden administration was denied the right to enforce its sweeping vaccine-or-test requirements on large private companies. However, a vaccine mandate would still apply to medical facilities taking Medicare or Medicaid payments.


For employers with 100 or more employees, the mandate required that workers receive vaccinations or submit a positive Covid test weekly to enter the workplace. In addition, unvaccinated workers were required to wear masks inside the workplace.


President Joe Biden, in a statement, said the Supreme Court chose to block requirements that are life-saving for workers. Biden called on states and businesses to step up and voluntarily institute vaccination requirements to protect workers, customers, and the broader community.


“The Court has ruled that my administration cannot use the authority granted to it by Congress to require this measure, but that does not stop me from using my voice as President to advocate for employers to do the right thing to protect Americans’ health and economy,” Biden said.


Marty Walsh said OSHA would follow its existing authority to ensure businesses are protecting workers, calling the court's decision a major setback for workers' health and safety. The American Medical Association, one of the nation's largest doctors' groups, called the court's decision a "dramatic setback" for workers.


In a separate, simultaneously released ruling on the administration’s vaccination rules for healthcare workers, a 5-4 majority sided with the Biden administration. “We agree with the Government that the [Health and Human Services] Secretary’s rule falls within the authorities that Congress has conferred upon him,” said the majority, writing that the rule “fits neatly within the language of the statute.”

“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: first, do no harm,” the majority opinion read. Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, and Amy Coney Barrett, four of the six conservatives on the nine-seat bench, dissented. “I do not think that the Federal Government is likely to be able to show that Congress has authorized the unprecedented step of compelling over 10,000,000 healthcare workers to be vaccinated on pain of being fired,” Alito wrote in his dissent. Biden, in a statement, said the vaccine requirement for healthcare workers will save the lives of patients, doctors, and nurses. “We will enforce it,” the president said of the mandate. OSHA, which polices workplace safety for the Labor Department, issued the business mandate under its emergency power established by Congress. OSHA can shortcut the normal rulemaking process, which can take years if the Labor secretary determines a new workplace safety standard is necessary to protect workers from grave danger.

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The court’s decision to strike down the business mandate comes as the pandemic rages across the U.S., with the highly contagious omicron variant driving an unprecedented surge of new infections. The U.S. is reporting 786,000 new infections daily on average, a pandemic record and a 37% increase over last week, according to CNBC analysis of data from Johns Hopkins University. Hospitalizations have also reached a pandemic high based on federal data going back to the summer of 2020. There are 149,000 Americans in U.S. hospitals with Covid, according to a seven-day average of data from the Department of Health and Human Services, up 27% over the past week. The vaccine-or-test rules faced a raft of lawsuits from 27 states with Republican attorneys general or governors, private businesses, religious groups, and national industry associations such as the National Retail Federation, the American Trucking Associations, and the National Federation of Independent Business. The NRF, in a statement, called the Supreme Court ruling a “victory,” urging the Biden administration “to discard this unlawful mandate and instead work with employers, employees, and public health experts on practical ways to increase vaccination rates and mitigate the spread of the virus in 2022.”

The mandates were the most expansive use of power by the federal government to protect workers from Covid since the pandemic began. Taken together, the Biden administration estimated that the rules for businesses and health care workers would apply to approximately 100 million Americans.


Assistance from CNBC -Christina Wilkie contributed to this report


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