December 17, 2021

Federal appeals court reinstates Biden's vaccine mandate


A federal appeals court on Friday reinstated the Biden administration's vaccine-or-test mandate for businesses with at least 100 employees, a measure that impacts tens of millions of workers across the country.

The decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit comes after the Biden administration asked the Cincinnati-based court in late November to reinstate its workplace vaccine mandate that was blocked by a court order. 

The appeals court said in its Friday ruling that “based on the wealth of information" in its 153-page preamble that explains why the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued an emergency temporary standard, “it is difficult to imagine what more OSHA could do or rely on to justify its finding that workers face a grave danger in the workplace.”

“It is not appropriate to second-guess that agency determination considering the substantial evidence, including many peer-reviewed scientific studies, on which it relied. Indeed, OSHA need not demonstrate scientific certainty,” the court continued.

The court said that it would be dissolving a stay issued by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit in November as a result. 

“OSHA has demonstrated the pervasive danger that COVID-19 poses to workers—unvaccinated workers in particular—in their workplaces,” the court said in its ruling.

The news comes amid growing concern over a surge in coronavirus cases in the U.S. amid the holiday season and the emergence of the omicron variant. 

The omicron strain, first detected in South Africa, became a variant of concern for the World Health Organization shortly after Thanksgiving, and is believed to be highly transmissible. However, scientists and public health experts are still working to figure out if the symptoms of infection by omicron are more severe than previous strains. 

The surge in cases has prompted local officials and businesses to cease lax operation. For example, professional sports teams have postponed games due to infection, and some schools are temporarily switching to online learning. 

In early November, a vaccine-or-test mandate was issued by OSHA, an administration that is part of the Labor Department. The mandate requires businesses with at least 100 employees to either require its workers get vaccinated or submit to regular testing and wearing facial coverings. 

Days later, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit issued a stay on the federal mandate following a legal challenge by the states of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Utah and South Carolina. 

Some legal experts braced for a decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit following the 5th Circuit's decision to stay. The 6th Circuit is considered a conservative court, though less so than the 5th Circuit. 

It is unclear at this moment if the court's Friday decision will be challenged. 

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