WASHINGTON (WFLA/AP) — The Supreme Court has stopped the Biden administration from enforcing a requirement that employees at large businesses be vaccinated against COVID-19 or undergo weekly testing and wear a mask on the job.
At the same time, the court is allowing the administration to proceed with a vaccine mandate for most health care workers in the U.S.
The court’s orders Thursday during a spike in coronavirus cases was a mixed bag for the administration’s efforts to boost the vaccination rate among Americans.
The court’s conservative majority concluded the administration overstepped its authority by seeking to impose the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s vaccine-or-test rule on U.S. businesses with at least 100 employees. More than 80 million people would have been affected.
“OSHA has never before imposed such a mandate. Nor has Congress. Indeed, although Congress has enacted significant legislation addressing the COVID–19 pandemic, it has declined to enact any measure similar to what OSHA has promulgated here,” the conservatives wrote in an unsigned opinion.
In dissent, the court’s three liberals argued that it was the court that was overreaching by substituting its judgments for health experts. “Acting outside of its competence and without legal basis, the Court displaces the judgments of the Government officials given the responsibility to respond to workplace health emergencies,” Justices Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor wrote in a joint dissent.
Gov. DeSantis spoke in Panama City prior to the Supreme Court ruling.
“The medical mandate for the nurses and the doctors, what they’re trying to do is absolutely insane. There are places now in Florida, we provided protections. So nurses were rehired. All these people, many of them have natural immunity. And so that, but there’s a crunch on the staffing because you have obviously a lot more COVID nationwide. And then you have staff that get out sick with it. So what have they done in other states? They have fired nurses is for not having vax, even though most of them have natural immunity. So they fire them. But now they’re shorthanded. So what are they doing? They are bringing back on the job, vaccinated nurses who are currently COVID positive. So if you’re unvaccinated, naturally immune and uninfected, they fire you. But if you’re COVID positive and vaxxed, which we know most of the people that are COVID positive now are vaxxed. They are going back on the job. Um, and it just shows you that CMS mandate is absolutely insane, especially given the ineffectiveness, of these shots to actually stop transmission, between individuals.”
The vaccine mandate that the court will allow to be enforced nationwide covers virtually all health care workers in the country.
“Any Floridian can access the required exemption forms on the Florida Department of Health website. So there is no reason any Floridian should lose his or her job over a COVID vaccine mandate,” a DeSantis spokesperson said.
More than 208 million Americans, 62.7% of the population, are fully vaccinated, and more than a third of those have received booster shots, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. All nine justices have gotten booster shots.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.