Judge blocks COVID-19 vaccine mandate for federal workers – CNET


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A federal judge in Texas has blocked US President Joe Biden’s mandate requiring federal workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19. The Friday decision is the latest blow to the Biden administration’s efforts to boost vaccination rates. 

The decision comes after the US Supreme Court last week blocked the administration’s COVID-19 vaccine-or-test mandate for businesses with 100 or more workers, which confined the mandate only to federal workers.

In a 20-page opinion and order, Judge Jeffrey Brown said Friday that Biden’s executive order requiring federal workers to get vaccinated exceeds the president’s authority. 

“It is … about whether the president can, with the stroke of a pen and without the input of Congress, require millions of federal employees to undergo a medical procedure as a condition of their employment,” Brown wrote. “That, under the current state of the law as just recently expressed by the Supreme Court, is a bridge too far.” 

Read more: COVID-19 booster shots: Will I need a fourth vaccine dose?

Biden issued executive orders in September requiring the federal government’s executive branch and contractors of the federal government to get vaccinated against COVID-19. The deadline to get vaccinated was Nov. 22.

On Friday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said that 98% of federal workers are already vaccinated, according to CNBC. “We are confident in our legal authority here,” Psaki added. 

The original mandate for businesses with 100 or more employees was issued by the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and would have covered about 84 million employees, according to the Supreme Court’s opinion last week. 

Before it could come into effect, Louisiana, Texas, Utah, South Carolina and Mississippi joined with businesses as well as religious and advocacy organizations to file for a permanent injunction against the mandate, and it was temporarily blocked by a federal appeals panel in Louisiana in November before being reinstated after a decision by the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in Cincinnati in December.

The Supreme Court’s vote last week to block the employee mandate was 6 to 3, while they voted to uphold the health care worker mandate 5 to 4. 

The decision comes as COVID-19 cases are rapidly on the rise across the US due to the emergence of the highly infectious omicron variant. The US currently has a 28-day case total of around 17.5 million, according to Johns Hopkins University’s COVID tracking numbers from Friday.

The Biden administration has already filed to appeal the decision. The White House didn’t immediately respond to a request for additional comment.

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