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SCOTUS Blocks Vaccine Mandate for Large Employers, Allows It for Some Healthcare Workers

WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Thursday, the Supreme Court blocked the Biden administration’s COVID-19 vaccine-or-testing mandate for large employers, but allowed a more limited mandate requiring healthcare workers at facilities receiving federal money to be vaccinated.

The vote in the employer mandate case was 6 to 3, with Justices Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan, and Sonia Sotomayor in dissent. The vote in the healthcare case was 5 to 4, with Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Brett Kavanaugh joining Breyer, Kagan, and Sotomayor in the majority.

According to the New York Times, the president welcomed the ruling in his favor, saying it would save the lives of healthcare workers and patients. But he said he was disappointed that the court had overturned the employer mandate, which he said was “grounded squarely in both science and the law.”

The majority opinion in the employer case said a statute on workplace hazards did not justify a mandate that would have required more than 80 million workers to be vaccinated against the coronavirus or to wear masks and be tested weekly, the Times added. It also stressed the novelty and sweep of the mandate issued by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, saying Congress had not authorized the agency to act and describing its response as “a blunt instrument.”

The mandate “draws no distinctions based on industry or risk of exposure to COVID-19,” the majority opinion said, adding that it was “a significant encroachment into the lives — and health — of a vast number of employees.”

The Times noted that the dissenting justices blasted the court’s willingness to frustrate “the federal government’s ability to counter the unparalleled threat that COVID-19 poses to our nation’s workers.” They argued that regulating safety in the workplace is exactly what OSHA is commanded to do.

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