A deep controversy is sparking in the US, due to Biden administration’s rule of having workers at private companies either get vaccinated or get tested weekly for the coronavirus from January 4.
The ruling by the 6th US Court of Appeals in Cincinnati overturned an injunction by a separate appeals court that blocked the Biden administration’s COVID mandate from taking effect.
Republican state attorneys general and conservative groups have already said they would appeal Friday’s decision to the US Supreme Court.
Biden’s vaccine mandate
The mandatory COVID rules that apply to companies with at least 100 workers, first announced by Biden in September, prompted a backlash — especially from Republican-controlled states.
The rules were formulated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in early November. The mandate covers more than 80 million American workers.
Most recently, the Democrat-controlled Senate voted to overturn the vaccine mandate, with Republicans saying they faced immense pressure from businesses worried about having to fire employees who refused the jab. The final vote was 52-48 as two Democratic senators voted with their Republican colleagues to repeal the rule.
The Cincinnati-based court of appeals, dominated by Republican-appointed judges, voted 2-1 on the issue, which means two judges voted in favor of enforcing the mandate and one against it.
“Given OSHA’s clear and exercised authority to regulate viruses, OSHA necessarily has the authority to regulate infectious diseases that are not unique to the workplace,” Judge Julia Smith Gibbons said in her majority opinion.
Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge said she would ask the US Supreme Court to block the order.
Friday’s decision is “extremely disappointing for Arkansans because it will force them to get the shot or lose their jobs,” she said.
The rule for private employers is separate from other vaccine mandates announced by the Biden administration that apply to federal government contractors and workers in health care facilities. Those rules have also stirred controversy.
Nearly 85% of US adults had received at least one COVID vaccine dose, as of Friday evening, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).