Supreme Court halts COVID-19 vaccine rule for U.S. businesses

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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 United States.

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 judgment for that of 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.

When crafting the OSHA rule, White House officials always anticipated legal challenges — and privately some harbored doubts that it could withstand them. The administration nonetheless still views the rule as a success at already driving millions of people to get vaccinated and for private businesses to implement their own requirements that are unaffected by the legal challenge.

Both rules had been challenged by Republican-led states. In addition, business groups attacked the OSHA emergency regulation as too expensive and likely to cause workers to leave their jobs at a time when finding new employees already is difficult.

The vaccine mandate that the court will allow to be enforced nationwide covers virtually all health care workers in the country. It applies to health care providers that receive federal Medicare or Medicaid funding, potentially affecting 76,000 health care facilities as well as home health care providers. The rule has medical and religious exemptions.

Decisions by federal appeals courts in New Orleans and St. Louis had blocked the mandate in about half the states. The administration already was taking steps to enforce it elsewhere.

In the healthcare case, only justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito noted their dissents. “The challenges posed by a global pandemic do not allow a federal agency to exercise power that Congress has not conferred upon it. At the same time, such unprecedented circumstances provide no grounds for limiting the exercise of authorities the agency has long been recognized to have,” the justices wrote in an unsigned opinion, saying the “latter principle governs” in the healthcare cases.

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.

The justices heard arguments on the challenges last week. Their questions then hinted at the split verdict that they issued Thursday.

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34 thoughts on “Supreme Court halts COVID-19 vaccine rule for U.S. businesses

    1. Boom indeed. Even the Washington Post had to throw shade on this one. Justice Sotomayor earned four Pinocchios for her outlandish claims.

      “Those numbers show that omicron is as deadly and causes as much serious disease in the unvaccinated as delta did. … We have over 100,000 children, which we’ve never had before, in serious condition and many on ventilators.” — Justice Sonia Sotomayor, during oral argument at the Supreme Court, Jan. 7


    2. As Jack Black says in Saving Silverman:

      “Come on ahhhh yay haaaa!”

      Good side of America fighting back.

      [not surprised on healthcare as we get paid via the government redirecting our tax dollars via CMS for 60+% of “non profit” money laundering]

  1. Thank you, President Biden, for the effort. Sincerely, thank you. Because where others fail to act, leaders must lead. As for the Supreme Court…now political in every way, what hypocrites. According to them, mandated vaccination is not proper UNLESS you’re in healthcare. Why healthcare? I mean, if it shouldn’t be mandated in industry, in general, then why just healthcare?

    In 2019, the percentage of people dying in hospitals was surpassed by those dying at home. It is likely Covid has changed that somewhat, but to ignore the importance of not doing everything possible to ensure our population is vaccinated so that those who are at risk or if non-hospitalized and seriously ill and are being cared for and DYING at home, places this “decision” in a category just short of malfeasance. But then, politics on the court always wins the day.

    Please folks, get vaccinated.

    1. Healthcare wasn’t singled out indiscriminately, I don’t believe. What is generally referred to as the “healthcare mandate” was tied to those entities receiving funding from federal Medicare and Medicaid programs. So, somewhat consistent with allowing individual employers to mandate vaccinations, healthcare facilities that want to continue to receive funding from those two federal programs need to abide by the mandate. There is logic there.
      The other argument that I believe was discussed, and could apply to a broader healthcare mandate though I don’t think was on point with the directives being discussed, is that OSHA has authority over “occupational” hazards. Since healthcare workers can’t (perhaps debatably in the specifics) keep their distance from COVID patients they are treating, or anyone else, there is a logical connection between their occupation and the disease. This in distinction from general health concerns that are irrespective of your occupation. If you can contract COVID anywhere, not just as work, then it is a general hazard not an occupational one (with the arguable exception of healthcare workers). Consider what it would mean if this mandate were upheld. OSHA could mandate vaccines for any communicable disease. Maybe to protect people like me who have bad seasonal allergies (basically all four seasons in my case), OSHA could require all workplaces to have filters for pollen, etc. It isn’t reasonable, in my opinion, to think that Congress when it set up OSHA intended OSHA to have such sweeping power. And, the fact that Congress doesn’t just pass a law making it clear that they do is democracy at work (regardless whether the Constitution can support such a law or not).

    2. Hospitals received money from fed programs, so they went with;
      From covid for deaths instead
      With covid for most deaths
      The current variant is not dangerous and the press and hospitals stay with the lie.

    3. Doug T you’re on it!

      CMS launders the tax dollars to not for profits and they make a mandate that the healthcare organizations will support to receive the revenue.

  2. Making sure I and many others will not set foot in a place where we don’t know our chances. It would be more “pro” local business to make sure customers know they are safer and will set foot in the door. On the other hand, I find there is a lot I don’t need and/or can do without, and therefore, my savings account is growing. Feeling bad for employees who are now stuck working near co-workers or customers who don’t care.

    1. Don’t be ignorant – the vaccines do not prevent transmission or infection – so you should know that you can contract it just the same from ALL those around you – both vaccinated and unvaccinated. Now, if you for some reason feel you need the vaccine to prevent yourself from serious illness, then please, go ahead and make sure you provide yourself that level of comfort (whether it is real or psychological). But unfortunately for you, it looks like you are going to have to shoot up about every few months (at least) in order to achieve any effect. And also unfortunately, it looks like the current vaccines do NOTHING for you with the Omicron variant. And the data is even now showing some potential negative efficacy against Omicron in those who are vaccinated. Are you aware of any of this?

  3. The outcome here should convince Gov. Holcomb to drop his attempt to prevent the legislature from convening itself. Even emergency powers need checks and balances.

  4. Everyone has the right to their own opinion and ultimately the right to choose whether or not they want to be vaccinated. Everyone also has their own personal stories as to how the virus has affected them, their families, friends, etc. There are those that have been devastated by the virus and those who really haven’t been at all.

    From my own personal experience, I can say that one of the saddest and most horrible things I’ve witnessed as a health care worker is the absolute panic, desperation and tears from those who chose not to get the vaccination and know they are going to die. To watch them beg for the shot rips your heart out. And I know that people will say that they may still have died from the virus had they gotten the shot. Maybe so. It’s a fact that there are people that have been vaccinated that are getting the virus. And I think there are a number of people that have died that got the vaccination. I don’t claim to have all the answers and the words “right or wrong” don’t make sense here, because I think people do have to make there own choice. I can only speak from personal experience. Of the people I have watched die from the virus, 100% of them had chosen not to take the shot. It breaks my heart.

    1. And they may have died anyway – no one really knows. As we have now heard from the CDC, roughly 75% of those who have died had 4 or more comorbidities and 67% of those who have died have had 6 or more comorbidities. An unfortunate truth for these people but also something that should help others realize their very low risk.

  5. ‘very political Supreme Court’ … ‘Supreme Court … now political in every way’ … Funny stuff! Stinks now that you’re on the other end, doesn’t it? More seriously, until we get term limits for Congress and the Supreme Court, we’re going to be stuck in this merry-go-round that will likely continue to get nastier as time goes on. Everyone ready to wake up yet?

  6. It is sad that someone chooses not to get the shot and dies. However, governments tend to make additions to their power. At what point does the ever-increasing power of the government finally cause the citizenry to say enough. Many people who are not willing to be vaccinated will be perfectly fine and others will die, unfortunately. I do believe in vaccines for myself and my family.

    1. Yes, but it’s entirely a personal choice – especially since it has now been demonstrated and accepted that the vaccinated can be both infected and TRANSMIT. So a vaccine is only if you think i serves to protect you – you can still pass it along.

    2. “It is above all in the present democratic age that the true friends of liberty and human grandeur must remain constantly vigilant and ready to prevent the social power from lightly sacrificing the particular rights of a few individuals to the general execution of its designs. In such times there is no citizen so obscure that it is not very dangerous to allow him to be oppressed, and there are no individual rights so unimportant that they can be sacrificed to arbitrariness with impunity.” – Alexis de Tocqueville (1805 – 1859)

  7. With so much suppressed information by the CDC, WHO, NIH, FDA and the Pharmaceutical industry, it is amazing how people can jump to conclusions so fast regarding the efficacy as well as yes, the side effects of these vaccines. Many of you have dug your heels in so deep and created such tunnel vision that you are not open to any discussion what so ever and just want to yell your opinion and attack those that don’t support your “side”.

    Do the vaccines have a place in the grand scheme of things, yes I personally believe so. However, ask yourself, do you really understand how Spike proteins work inside the human body, naturally occurring as well as those introduced by an mRNA product? Do you really understand how the body’s immune system works? Do you understand that none of the vaccines have been approved by the FDA for adults and likely never will be….more importantly, do you understand why? Do you understand why there is such a push for vaccinating children and how that relates to the FDA legalities in the future.

    This is the United States of America, and citizens of this great country have the right to make their own decisions.

  8. Even though we don’t know if it will help, won’t prevent me from getting Covid, don’t know what strain is in the vaccine and don’t know the side effects. I’ve heard all the reasons, the guilt and manipulation people attack me with. We have been force fed it enough it makes me sick. The mental health wards are just as jam packed as the hospital wards, People have been taught to live in fear and isolation. Kids don’t get to go to school half the time and when they do, all they hear about is social distancing. THIS ISN’T LIVING! My opinion and respect for the CDC, President, healthcare system and government is now down to ZERO. It saddens me that so many people have succumbed to the media hype of this disease. I thought we lived in a free country. Now we just live in a power hungry one that tells us what we can do and encourages fear and disconnection. What about the abuse and emotional aspect that is playing havoc in people’s lives? What about the economy? Is all this really worth, ruining peoples lives and the economy?

    1. Peggy. Appreciate your emotional comment and these types of honest reflections are important as a humans living in a power hungry society of elitists.

  9. Peggy A. the answer has to be NO. I just hope people remember this and vet the candidates thoroughly and vote wisely in our upcoming elections. There is so much at stake and this nation staying free is worth any cost.

  10. M.G. love your contribution on this thread – so very accurate, grounded, sane – and needed. To your point… “Are you aware of any of this?” Thank you!

    1. Healthcare workers on the whole are heroes.

      It’s the leadership that are handicapping treatment (after 2 years of continued purgatory) as development of therapy protocols are critical…vaccines are not the panacea.

    2. “You would think…?” You want us to think like you, but if there are front line health care heroes not getting vaccinated, maybe you should ask yourself, “what do they know that I don’t?”

  11. The Supreme Court decision delivered the intended “checks and balances” on the three branches of government the Founding Fathers intended. Living incurs risks. Our nation and form of government was established to provide the greatest amount of freedom and liberty to each citizen possible. A very risky proposition but one that has served America in an excellent fashion, as we came out of nowhere on the world stage and established a country with one of the highest standards of living fueled by individuals with the freedom and liberty to achieve great accomplishments, with a population as mixed and diverse as any other country. If we now accept a nation subject to the mandates of one branch of government without such checks and balances by the other branches of government …, we are nothing more than “subjects” whose lives and fate are determined by the ruling class. If this is what you believe is best, there are other nations on the world stage that provide this way of governing. China, North Korea, Venezuela, Iran and most other Middle East countries immediately come to mind. America provides you the freedom to go live in one of those nations. Enjoy your journey.