US Government officials of Joseph Biden's administration Monday insisted the presidential vaccination mandate should remain in force despite a federal court's issuance of a stay against it last Saturday.
Since Biden's compulsory vaccination for workers is not to take effect before Jan. 4, legal advisors for the Justice and Labor departments agreed that halting immunization at this point would only prolong the COVID-19 pandemic and “cost dozens or even hundreds of lives per day.”
The New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said there is no reason to rush into a ruling on whether the halt should be made permanent.
The mandate would apply to private businesses with more than 100 workers and those who do not complete their treatment by Jan. 4 would be required to wear a mask and be tested weekly for the coronavirus.
Occupational Safety and Health Administration rules issued last week create exemptions for workers citing religious objections and for those who do not interact in-person with coworkers or customers, as well as those who work only outdoors.
More than two dozen Republican state attorneys general, businesses, religious groups and conservative associations sued on the grounds that the federal government does not have the right to make the regulation, but the Biden administration lawyers have replied that the risks were greater without the mandate than with it, after the Court asked the federal government for reasons why the stay should not be made permanent.
Administration lawyers replied there was no reason to keep the vaccine mandate on hold while the court where the cases ultimately land remains undetermined and no employee will have to get a shot until early December. By that time a new ruling needs to have been made.
White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre hoped the COVID-19 vaccine mandate survive the legal challenges. “This is an authority that we believe the Department of Labor has,” Jean-Pierre told told reporters during a news briefing. “We are very confident about it.” She insisted the mandate was about keeping people safe and that Congress had empowered the Labor Department to act with the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) of 1970.
Employers were quick to comply but then recoiled, faced with mass resignations which would leave them understaffed. Workers would easily move on to other jobs at places with less than 100 employees, where the mandate does not apply.
The administration announced plans for the workplace rule in September and unveiled the plans Nov. 4. Many Republican governors and state attorneys general signalled ahead of time that they would challenge it immediately, as they did with multiple federal lawsuits filed Friday.
The 5th Circuit order read, “the Mandate is hereby stayed pending further action by this court” but did not specifically state whether it applied only to the five states. Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry said it applied nationally, but states that filed in different courts asked Monday for clarification.