A federal appeals court on Friday night reinstated President Joe Biden’s vaccine and testing mandate for all U.S. businesses that employ more than 100 workers.
In a 2-1 decision, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration can enforce vaccine-or-testing measures for large companies, which would cover more than two-thirds of the nation’s workers. The decision comes as a growing number of companies, including hospitals, have abandoned vaccine mandates for their workers.
“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 health-care system to its knees, forced businesses to shut down for months on end, and cost hundreds of thousands of workers their jobs,” the court said.
Per Biden’s rules, employees would be required to show proof of vaccination — two doses of Pfizer or Moderna, or one dose of Johnson & Johnson — or to produce a negative COVID test on a weekly basis. Additionally, employers are required to remove from the workplace any employee who receives a positive COVID-19 test; workers who are not fully vaccinated must also wear a face covering when indoors. According to NPR, the new deadline for implementing these requirements is January 10.
The White House said in a statement that, as the U.S. faces the highly transmissible Omicron variant, “it’s critical we move forward with vaccination requirements and protections for workers with the urgency needed in this moment.” OSHA estimates the rule could save more than 6,500 lives and prevent over 250,000 hospitalizations in the six months.
A federal judge had blocked the rule in early November, arguing that the measures would be costly and lead to worker shortages. And in response to Friday’s reinstatement of the policy, Republican state attorneys general and conservative groups — who sued to strike the measure in the past — said they would appeal the decision to the Supreme Court.