Another Biden COVID Vaccine Mandate on Hold

Last month, a court stayed Biden's large private employer mandate that requires workers to be vaccinated or test-and-mask. On Tuesday, a federal district court judge stayed the vaccine mandate that applies nationwide to most health care workers.

Read Time: 3 minutes

December 1, 2021, 11:00 AM PST

By Irvin Dawid

A sign on a door says proof of vaccine is required to enter.

rblmfr / Shutterstock

"A federal judge issued a preliminary injunction [pdf] on Tuesday to halt the start of President Biden’s national vaccine mandate for health care workers, which had been set to begin next week," report Azi Paybarah and Reed Abelson for The New York Times on Nov. 30.

The initial ruling in the case known as Louisiana et al v. Becerra et al applies nationwide and comes after a similar ruling by U.S. District Judge Matthew Schelp in St. Louis on Monday that applied to 10 states.

In leading a 14-state lawsuit against the mandate, Attorney General Jeff Landry of Louisiana said the federal mandate would blow holes in state budgets and exacerbate shortages in healthcare facilities.

“There is no question that mandating a vaccine to 10.3 million health care workers is something that should be done by Congress, not a government agency,” Judge Doughty of U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana wrote. He added: “It is not clear that even an act of Congress mandating a vaccine would be constitutional.”

The plaintiffs, he added, also have an “interest in protecting its citizens from being required to submit to vaccinations” and to prevent the loss of jobs and tax revenue that may result from the mandate.

The federal rule in question was written by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and was published in the Federal Register on Nov. 5. It applies to workers at health care facilities that participate in the Medicare and Medicaid programs.

“Ensuring patient safety and protection from COVID-19 has been the focus of our efforts in combatting the pandemic and the constantly evolving challenges we’re seeing,” said CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure in a news release on Nov. 4.

Second prong of Biden vaccination strategy now on hold

President Biden announced a multi-prong strategy on Sept. 9 to combat the Delta surge gripping the nation that rested largely on increasing the vaccination rate among the labor force (posted here). The most controversial mandate applied to the private workforce which was stayed in early November by the New Orleans-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.

Unlike the large employer rule written by the  U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the health care vaccine mandate does not allow workers to opt for a coronavirus testing alternative.

Public health vs. individual liberties

Attorney General Landry expressed a familiar theme in his office's press release after the ruling that has repeatedly surfaced in coronavirus litigation.

“I applaud Judge Doughty for recognizing that Louisiana is likely to succeed on the merits and for delivering yet another victory for the medical freedom of Americans," said Attorney General Landry. “While Joe Biden villainizes our healthcare heroes with his ‘jab or job’ edicts, I will continue to stand up to the President's bully tactics and fight for liberty.”

The theme should not be confused with civil liberties and public health, as the ACLU has illustrated.

What's next?

"The injunction issued on Tuesday is a first step in the lawsuits against the vaccine mandate," add Paybarah and Abelson. "The cases still have to be argued before a judge, and any lower-court ruling will likely be appealed."

Related in Planetizen:

Hat tip to Bret Baier.

Tuesday, November 30, 2021 in The New York Times

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