Biden's vaccine-or-test rule for 84 million workers is back after court lifts stay

At a White House event on October 14, President Joe Biden encouraged states and businesses to support vaccine mandates to avoid a surge in cases of Covid-19.
At a White House event on October 14, President Joe Biden encouraged states and businesses to support vaccine mandates to avoid a surge in cases of Covid-19.
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals has lifted the stay on the Biden administration's rule requiring workers at companies with 100 or more employees to be vaccinated against Covid or undergo weekly testing starting Jan. 4.

The rule had been blocked since Nov. 6, a day after it was formally issued by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

A three-judge panel of the 6th Circuit found that the arguments made by the petitioners "are entirely speculative," and that the costs of delaying implementation of the rule are comparatively high.

"Fundamentally, the [rule] is an important step in curtailing 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," wrote Circuit Judge Jane B. Stranch, an Obama appointee.

The lifting of the stay comes just as the highly transmissible Omicron variant is wreaking havoc in Europe and the U.S. is bracing for a similar spread.

OSHA had estimated that the vaccinate-or-test rule could save more than 6,500 lives and prevent over 250,000 hospitalizations in the six months that it would be in effect.

In addition to the vaccine and testing requirements set to take effect Jan. 4, the rule requires companies to determine who among their workers are vaccinated and who are not, and to enforce a mask mandate for unvaccinated workers starting Dec. 6. It's unclear now whether that takes effect immediately.

The ruling is a big victory for the Biden administration, as its vaccine mandate for health care workers at facilities that receive Medicaid or Medicare funding remains blocked in about half the states and its vaccine mandate for federal contractors remains blocked nationwide.

Still, Friday’s ruling is not expected to be the final word. In all likelihood, it will be heading to the U.S. Supreme Court soon.

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