The US Supreme Court on Thursday blocked President Joe Biden’s mandate obligating employees at all businesses with 100 workers or more to get vaccinated against the coronavirus or submit to weekly Covid testing and show negative results if they want to remain on the job.

The presidential order would have gone into force in February.

The high court gave the green light, however, to another Biden mandate for workers at more than 50,000 health facilities around the country to get vaccinated against Covid. Some of those health facilities receive federal subsidies for Medicare and Medicaid and the move affects some 17 million people.

Six justices, all of them with the court’s conservative majority, signed on to the reversal of Biden’s order for people at firms with 100 or more workers to get vaccinated, while the three progressive justices issued a dissenting opinion on the ruling.

The argument used by the court in overturning the measure was that the federal government does not have sufficient authority to issue an order of that kind, as business groups and certain states have contended.

The mandate would have been administered by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and the majority opinion stated that “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 majority opinion went on to say that the mandate would have been a significant invasion into the lives and health of a large number of workers.

Last Friday, at a high court hearing, one of the plaintiffs’ attorneys, Scott Keller, with the National Federation of Independent Businesses, warned that Biden’s order would cause a massive economic shift in the US and that many workers would quit so that they would not have to get vaccinated against Covid.

In the case of the mandate affecting healthcare workers, however, two of the conservative magistrates on the high court – John Roberts and Brett Kavanaugh – allied themselves with the progressives in allowing Biden’s measure to stand, while the other four conservative justices opposed it.

After the Supreme Court ruling was handed down, Biden said Thursday afternoon that he was “disappointed” by the decision to block his big-company mandate.

In a statement, the president said that “I am disappointed that the Supreme Court has chosen to block common-sense life-saving requirements for employees at large businesses that were grounded squarely in both science and the law,” adding that the testing and masking requirements he sought to impose were “a very modest burden.”

He went on to say, though, that “it is now up to States and individual employers to determine whether to make their workplaces as safe as possible for employees and whether their businesses will be safe for consumers during this pandemic by requiring employees to take the simple and effective step of getting vaccinated.”

Despite the setback, Biden said that he will continue pushing for employers to do “the right thing” to protect both Americans’ health and the US economy.

He urged business leaders to immediately join the members of their ranks who have stepped up, including a third of the Fortune 100 companies, and establish vaccination requirements for their workers, customers and communities.

He also noted that his administration began imposing vaccination mandates in late July when 90 million Americans had not yet been vaccinated against Covid and now that figure has been reduced to 35 million.

The president said that the vaccine requirements apply to members of the US military, federal workers, contractors, health workers and big companies, adding that if his administration had not implemented these mandates there would now be more than the current 800,000 Covid deaths and there would have been many more hospitalizations.

Regarding the mandate that the high court upheld, Biden said that this decision will “save lives,” including patients, doctors, nurses and other people who work at health facilities.

The US is the country that has been hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic with more than 63 million Covid-19 cases and more than 800,000 deaths, according to figures compiled by The Johns Hopkins University.

EFE arc/pamp/laa/bp
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