New court rulings halt Biden vaccine mandate for federal contractors, health workers

A pair of rulings by separate federal judges Tuesday temporarily halted parts of the Biden administration’s mandatory COVID-19 vaccine policy for certain workers.

One ruling, issued by a Louisiana-based federal judge, effectively blocked a vaccine mandate for health workers across the country at hospitals that receive federal funding. 

A second ruling, by a Kentucky-based federal judge, paused the administration's vaccine mandate for federal contractors in Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee.

The developments are just the latest in a string of legal setbacks for President Biden as his administration seeks to blunt the effects of a global pandemic that has already killed more than 750,000 people in the U.S. 

The ruling from the Louisiana-based judge dovetails with a Monday decision by yet another federal judge, based in Missouri, who blocked the mandate for health workers in 10 states. Tuesday’s ruling effectively extended the freeze nationwide.

The Republican attorney general of West Virginia, one of a dozen state plaintiffs in the latest case, celebrated the temporary win. 

“We are pleased that the court made a sensible decision and sided with individual freedoms for health care workers,” Patrick Morrisey said in a statement. “Our group has successfully stopped this mandate from taking effect for the time being, and we believe the mandate will be struck down permanently moving forward.”

The health worker mandate, which applied to health care facilities that receive Medicaid or Medicaid, was hit with lawsuits soon after an agency under the Department of Health and Human Services rolled out the rule earlier this month.

The rulings against the health worker mandate both cited concerns that the policy could lead to staffing shortages given the number of vaccine-opposed workers affected.

The Biden administration has argued that the rule is necessary to slow the spread of COVID-19 among millions of health care workers and Medicare and Medicaid patients.

The other Tuesday ruling — which concerned the federal contractor mandate — was narrower in scope, blocking the policy only as it applies to the three states that were plaintiffs in the case: Kentucky, Ohio, Tennessee.

Contractors in other parts of the country who are subject to the mandate face a Dec. 8 deadline.

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