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Court clears Biden employer’s vaccination mandate to take effect

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A syringe is prepared with the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at an immunization clinic at the Keystone First Wellness Center in Chester, Pa. On Wednesday, December 15, 2021. (AP Photo / Matt Rourke)

A syringe is prepared with the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at an immunization clinic at the Keystone First Wellness Center in Chester, Pa. On Wednesday, December 15, 2021. (AP Photo / Matt Rourke)

PA

A federal appeals panel on Friday cleared President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for large private employers to move forward, overturning a previous ruling on a requirement that could affect some $ 84 million of American workers.

The 2-1 decision of a panel of the U.S. 6th Court of Appeals in Cincinnati overturns a decision by a federal judge in a separate court that suspended the warrant nationwide.

The mandate of the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration was due to go into effect on January 4. With Friday’s decision, it’s not clear when the requirement could be put in place, but the White House said in a statement it would protect workers: “Especially as the United States faces the highly transmissible variant of Omicron, it is essential that we move forward with vaccination requirements and protections for workers with the emergency needed at this time. ”

Republican state attorneys general and conservative groups said they would appeal Friday’s ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Twenty-seven Republican-led states joined with conservative groups, trade associations and some individual companies in opposing the requirement as soon as OSHA released the rules in early November. They argued that the agency was not authorized to impose the emergency rule, in part because the coronavirus is a general health risk and not a risk faced only by employees at work.

The majority of the panel disagreed.

“Given OSHA’s clear and exercised authority to regulate viruses, OSHA necessarily has the power to regulate infectious diseases that are not unique to the workplace,” Judge Julia Smith Gibbons, who has been appointed. in court by former President George W. Bush, a Republican, wrote in his majority opinion.

“Vaccinations and physicals are both tools OSHA has historically used to contain disease in the workplace,” she wrote.

Gibbons noted that the agency’s authority goes beyond simply regulating “helmets and safety glasses.” She said the vaccine requirement “is not yet another expansion of OSHA’s power; it is an existing application of authority to a new and dangerous global pandemic. “

She was joined in the majority decision by Judge Jane Branstetter Stranch, a person appointed by former President Barrack Obama, a Democrat.

The case was consolidated in the 6th Circuit, which is dominated by judges appointed by Republicans. Earlier this week, active circuit judges rejected a decision to have the full panel consider the case, in a vote of 8-8.

Dissent in Friday’s ruling came from Judge Joan Larsen, a person appointed by former President Donald Trump, who said Congress had not authorized OSHA to pass such a rule and that it did not It was not necessary to use the emergency procedures followed by the agency to set it up.

Larsen also argued that vaccinated workers “do not face” serious danger “in working with those who are not vaccinated.”

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, a Republican, said she would ask the United States Supreme Court to block the order. At least two conservative rights groups have said they have already appealed to the country’s highest court.

“The Sixth Circuit decision is extremely disappointing for the Arkansans as it will force them to get shot or lose their jobs,” said Rutledge.

South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson, who is also president of the Republican Attorneys General Association, said in a Twitter message on Friday that he was confident the warrant could be interrupted.

The vaccine requirement would apply to companies with 100 or more employees and would cover approximately 84 million workers in the United States. Employees who are not fully vaccinated should wear face masks and undergo weekly COVID-19 tests. There would be exceptions, including those who work outside or only at home.

The administration estimated that the rule would save 6,500 lives and avoid 250,000 hospitalizations in six months. On Friday, the US Department of Labor, which includes OSHA, said the 6th Circuit decision would allow the agency to implement “common sense and science-based measures to keep workers safe and healthy. workers during a deadly pandemic “.

The vaccine rule for private employers is separate from other vaccination mandates announced by the Biden administration that apply to federal government contractors and workers in healthcare facilities who receive funding from Medicaid or Medicare. These rules are also under attack by the Conservatives and have been suspended in at least parts of the country.

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Mulvihill reported from Cherry Hill, New Jersey, and DeMillo from Little Rock, Arkansas.