Biden team regroups after High Court loss on shots-or-test

WASHINGTON: Concerned but not giving up, President Joe Biden is eagerly asking people to get COVID-19 shots after the Supreme Court halted the administration’s sweeping vaccination-or-test plan for large employers. advancing.

At a time when the number of hospitals is surging and record numbers of people are becoming infected with the Omicron variant, the administration expects states and companies to order their own vaccination or testing requirements. And if the presidential bully pulpit still counts for persuasion, Biden intends to use it.

While some in the business community rejoiced at the mandate’s defeat, Biden insisted the administration’s effort was not for naught. The High Court’s decision Thursday “does not prevent me from using my voice as president to advocate for employers to do the right thing to protect the health and economy of Americans,” he said.

The court’s conservative majority completely outlawed the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s requirement, which requires employers with 100 or more employees to vaccinate their employees against the coronavirus or take weekly tests. However, it left out the vaccination requirement for health care workers.

The judges ruled that OSHA went beyond its congressional authority to enforce occupational standards, saying that, while COVID19 is a risk that occurs in many workplaces, it is not an occupational hazard in most.

The mandate was announced last September, sparking bitter criticism of Biden for the nearly 80 million American adults who had yet to get shots

We have been patient. But our patience is waning, and your refusal has cost all of us, he said. Unaffiliated minorities, he said, can do a lot of damage, and they are.

In a statement following the Supreme Court ruling, Biden expressed disappointment at the result, but said the mandate has already had the desired effect on reducing the number of unvaccinated adults.

Today, that number has dropped to less than 35 million, he said of not being vaccinated. If my administration had not met the vaccination requirements, we would now be experiencing death tolls from COVID-19 and even higher hospitalizations.

While the court left open the possibility for the US to pursue more targeted mandates, White House officials said there were no immediate plans to redo the regulation.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Friday that it is now up to states and individual employers to meet vaccination requirements.

The United States is already “near the bottom of the countries behind, with a 60% vaccination rate,” said Lawrence Gostin, a public health law expert at Georgetown University.

Gostin said the OSHA rule was really the last best shot at increasing vaccination rates. But the court, in a very partisan manner, deliberately tried to handcuff the president to do what he needed to do.

Several large businesses that had already implemented vaccination-or-testing requirements indicated they had no plans to reverse course. But smaller companies said they were heaving a sigh of relief, fearing that if the OSHA rule was allowed to apply, there would be a staff shortage.

The Supreme Court decision has slightly lessened the burden of concern off our shoulders, said Kyle Caraway, marketing director for Doolittle Trailer Manufacturing, who joined the lawsuit by the Missouri attorney general challenging the Bidens policy. He said that about 90% of the 175 employees at Holts Summit, a Missouri-based company, indicated they would refuse to comply with the vaccination requirement.

It became clear to us that our team was going to shrink a lot overnight if that vaccine mandate went into effect, said Caraway, who counted himself among those opposed to the Bidens policy. He said the halt in production may force the company to consider closing its doors.

The Service Employees International Union, which represents more than 2 million workers, said the court’s decision was a relief for health care workers, but leaves others without significant protections.

In blocking the vaccine-or-testing rule for large employers, the court put at risk millions of other essential workers, the union said, adding that corporations are trying to rig the rules against workers permanently. .

The union called on Congress and states to pass laws requiring vaccinations, masks and paid sick leave. The union said workers needed better access to testing and protective equipment.

Renewed debate over vaccination mandates comes as record numbers of Americans are hospitalized with COVID-19, the country averages nearly 800,000 new cases and 1,700 deaths a day, and resistance to vaccines remains a problem. remains, especially in deeply conservative states like Mississippi. Alabama, Wyoming and Idaho where less than half the population is fully vaccinated.

Hospitals across the country are facing staff shortages and are being bombarded with people showing up for virus tests in emergency rooms. National Guard troops have been activated in dozens of states to assist at medical centres, nursing homes and testing sites.

A hospital on the edge of the Kansas City area had to borrow ventilators from the state of Missouri stockpile and hunt for more high-flow oxygen machines, and Kansas’ largest county said Friday it was again running out of morgue space. Is.

Gostin predicted that the court’s action would have a serious impact on the efforts of other federal agencies to protect public health, ruling that OSHA could not regulate something that would have a major economic impact without explicit authorization from Congress. . And he said that the states would not be able to prepare for the ruling effect.

If COVID has taught us anything, it has taught us that states cannot tackle big, bold problems, cannot stop a pathogen from moving from Florida to New York,” he said. “These are national problems for which federal solution is required.

Psaki said the White House would work with businesses to promote the benefits of vaccination or testing requirements and that Biden would highlight successful programs.

The Court has ruled that my administration cannot use the authority given by Congress to require this measure,” Biden said. So “I call on business leaders to immediately join those who have previously Since then, including a third of Fortune 100 companies and institutions have stepped in. Vaccination requirements to protect our workers, customers and communities.


Lieb in Jefferson City, Missouri, and Lindsay Tanner in Chicago contributed.

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