Federal appeals court reinstates Biden administration’s commercial testing and vaccine mandate

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U.S. President Joe Biden speaks in the Eisenhower Executive Office building in Washington, DC, the United States on Wednesday, November 3, 2021.

Al Drago | Bloomberg | Getty Images

A federal appeals court has reinstated the Biden administration’s vaccine and testing requirement for private companies that covers about 80 million American workers.

The ruling by the U.S. 6th Court of Appeals in Cincinnati lifted a November injunction that blocked the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s rule, which applies to companies with 100 or more workers.

In Friday’s ruling, the 6th Circuit noted that OSHA has a historic precedent for using broad discretion to keep workers safe and “demonstrated the pervasive danger COVID-19 poses to workers – unvaccinated workers. in particular – at their workplace “.

The Justice Department argued last week that blocking the requirements would cause ‘enormous’ harm to the public, as hospitals brace for an increase in Covid cases this winter and the highly mutated omicron variant takes root in more states.

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“COVID-19 is spreading in the workplace, and workers are hospitalized and die,” the Justice Department said in a court filing on Friday. “As the number of COVID-19 cases continues to rise and a new variant has emerged, the threat to workers is ongoing and overwhelming. “

The policy required companies with 100 or more employees to ensure their employees were fully immunized by January 4 or to submit a negative Covid test every week to enter the workplace. Unvaccinated employees had to start wearing masks indoors from December 5.

Republican attorneys general, private companies and industry groups such as the National Retail Federation, the American Trucking Associations and the National Federation of Independent Business have filed a lawsuit to overturn the policy. They argued that the requirements are unnecessary, burden businesses with compliance costs, and are beyond the authority of the federal government.

“These claims ignore the economic analysis conducted by OSHA that demonstrates the feasibility of implementing the ETS. [Emergency Temporary Standard]”the 6th Circuit said on Friday, calling the concerns of the petitioner groups” speculative. “

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The Biden administration last month halted the implementation and enforcement of requirements to comply with an order issued by the United States Court of Appeals for the 5th New Orleans Circuit. Judge Kurt D. Englehardt, in an opinion for a three-judge panel, said the requirements were “incredibly too broad” and raised “serious constitutional concerns”.

The more than two dozen lawsuits against the vaccine and testing requirements were moved to Sixth Circuit last month after the Biden administration asked a multi-district litigation panel to consolidate the case in a single court by random selection.

The Justice Department, in its court file last week, argued that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which developed the requirements, acted within its emergency powers as established by Congress . The Biden administration rejected claims by opponents that workers would resign over the policy and said the costs of compliance were “modest.”

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“The threat to human life and health also far outweighs the petitioners’ assumptions about the number of workers who might quit rather than get vaccinated or tested,” the Justice Department wrote in its filing, arguing that many workers who say they will end up complying with vaccination mandates.

OSHA, which oversees workplace safety for the Department of Labor, has developed vaccine and testing requirements under emergency powers that allow the agency to shorten the normal rulemaking process. , which can take years. OSHA may issue an emergency workplace safety standard if the Secretary of Labor determines that a standard is necessary to protect workers from serious danger.

The White House has repeatedly argued that Covid poses a serious danger to workers, highlighting the staggering death toll from the pandemic and the increase in Covid infections in the United States

Reuters contributed to this report.

This breaking news. Please check for updates.

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