In a test of presidential powers to address an unyielding public health crisis, the United States Supreme Court, which has limited its own operations during the COVID-19 pandemic, is preparing to decide whether to block President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandates for large businesses and healthcare workers.
On Friday, the court will hear oral arguments in two different challenges filed by challengers, including business groups, religious organizations, and Republican-led states, seeking emergency orders suspending the vaccination requirements, with verdicts due soon. Biden and his administration, according to the challengers, have overstepped their jurisdiction.
The court’s 6-3 conservative majority has previously shown skepticism about broad government agency activities.
Decisions against Biden might limit his capacity to take broad action to combat a pandemic that has already claimed the lives of 830,000 Americans, with COVID-19 infections caused by the coronavirus Omicron variant on the rise across the country.
The nine justices have been working remotely for the majority of the outbreak. The few persons allowed to attend the court’s in-person oral arguments in October, for the first time since the early days of the pandemic, were compelled to wear masks and keep social distance. Only Sonia Sotomayor, one of the justices, donned a mask in the courtroom during recent arguments.