Coronavirus: Appeals court allows Biden’s employer vaccine mandate to take effect

A federal appeals court on Friday reinstated a Biden administration policy requiring companies with 100 or more employees to fully vaccinate their workforces against COVID-19 or have employees undergo regular testing.

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The 2-1 ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit lifted a stay that had gone into effect Nov. 6, one day after officials with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued the policy.

The decision is likely to go next to the Supreme Court. It had been set to take effect for millions of workers beginning Jan. 4.

>> Related: Federal appeals court temporarily halts COVID-19 vaccine mandate for businesses

In the majority opinion delivered Friday, Judge Jane Stranch, who was nominated by President Barack Obama, wrote that the rule was “an important step in curtaining the transmission of a deadly virus that has killed over 800,000 people in the United States, brought our healthcare system to its knees, forced businesses to shut down for months on end and cost hundreds of thousands of workers their jobs.”

“The harm to the government and the public interest outweighs any irreparable injury to the individual petitioners who may be subject to a vaccination policy,” she wrote.

Stranch was joined in her opinion by Judge Julia Smith Gibbons, a nominee of President George W. Bush.

>> Read the opinion issued Friday by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit

In a dissenting opinion, Judge Joan Larsen, a nominee of President Donald Trump, wrote that OSHA exceeded its authority, which she said has historically ended at the boundary of an employee’s workplace.

“A vaccine may not be taken off when the workday ends; and its effects, unlike this rule, will not expire in six months,” she wrote.

The policy has been challenged by more than two dozen Republican-led states, businesses and conservative legal groups, The Washington Post reported. The lawsuits have since been consolidated before the Cincinnati-based 6th Circuit, according to The Associated Press.

>> Related: Coronavirus: Federal vaccine mandate for businesses, health care workers to take effect Jan. 4

In a statement issued after the ruling, Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge called the decision “extremely disappointing” and said she planned to appeal to the Supreme Court.

South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson expressed similar sentiments Friday evening, vowing in a Twitter post to continue fighting the “unconstitutional and illegal mandate.”

The decision came after a separate appeals court declined to reinstate the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate for federal contractors, CNN reported. The mandate was blocked nationwide earlier this month, according to the news network.

As of Friday morning, 72.5% of the U.S. population – 240.7 million people – has gotten at least one dose of any of the available COVID-19 vaccines, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Just over 61% of Americans, or 203.4 million people, have been fully vaccinated, and more than 28% of those who have been fully vaccinated have gotten booster shots, CDC data shows.

Since the start of the pandemic, officials have reported 50.7 million cases of COVID-19 nationwide, resulting in more than 805,000 deaths, according to a tally from Johns Hopkins University. Globally, 273.6 million cases have been reported, resulting in 5.3 million deaths, according to the university.

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