Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Government: vaccination regulations must remain in place until things get better

The Biden administration formulated its mandate to vaccinate private employers in terms of life and death on Monday in legal filings that tried to bring the claim back into effect after it was stopped by federal court.

Its filing in response to the suspension issued over the weekend by the 5th U.S. District Court of Appeals in New Orleans says there is no reason to rush to decide whether to make the stop permanent because the vaccine mandate will not go into effect. … until January 4th. Terminating the mandate will only prolong the COVID-19 pandemic and “will cost tens or even hundreds of lives a day,” said Justice and Labor Department lawyers.

As of Sunday, the seven-day moving average for daily new deaths in the US was 1,151, but it is unclear what role the future private vaccine mandate will play in reducing that number.

The mandate will apply to private enterprises employing more than 100 people. Employees who do not receive injections by January 4 will be required to wear a mask and be tested for coronavirus weekly. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSH) rules, released last week, make exceptions for workers citing religious objections, those who do not communicate in person with colleagues or clients, and those who only work outdoors.

More than two dozen Republican attorneys general of state, businesses, religious groups and conservative associations have sued on the grounds that the federal government has no power to take action, in part because COVID-19 poses no danger to the workplace.

Lawyers for the Biden administration argued that the risks were greater without a mandate than with it: “The injuries claimed by the applicants, on the contrary, are speculative and distant and do not outweigh the interest in protecting employees from the dangerous virus during the course of this case,” they wrote. …

Since OSHA published its rules last week, at least 27 states have filed lawsuits in at least six federal appeals courts. All states have a Republican governor or attorney general.

Over the weekend, federal court judges in New Orleans suspended the rule’s entry into force, saying it raises “serious legislative and constitutional issues,” and asked the federal government to explain why the decision should not be permanent.

The federal government said in its court documents on Monday that the cases must be combined and that one of the district courts in which the lawsuit was filed should be selected at random on November 16 to hear it.

Administration lawyers said there was no reason to postpone the vaccine while the court in which the cases would ultimately be adjudicated remains uncertain. In addition, they argued, no employee would have to pursue compliance until early December.

White House spokeswoman Karin Jean-Pierre expressed confidence that the mandate for the COVID-19 vaccine can stand the legal test.

“This is the authority that we believe the Ministry of Labor has,” Jean-Pierre told reporters during the briefing. “We are very confident about that.”

Jean-Pierre said the mandate was to ensure the safety of people and that Congress authorized the Department of Labor to act in accordance with the Occupational Safety and Health Act 1970. Vaccination responsibilities, including for certain federal employees, contractors and the military, are a key component of the Biden administration’s strategy to contain the pandemic that killed 755,000 people in the United States.

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It says widespread vaccinations are the fastest way out of a pandemic. But employers backed down, saying they feared the mandate would force many of their workers to leave.

At a press conference Monday in Concord, New Hampshire, the president of Keller Companies, a 350-employee building panels and plastics manufacturer, called the OSHA rule “a crushing blow to employers.”

Katie Garfield, whose family has run the company in Manchester for three generations, said she brought in a vaccination van to serve employees and gave workers paid time for vaccinations. Only about half did it.

“We had employees who said that if we demand the vaccine or it happens, they will not receive the vaccine and will not be tested. How can I run a business if I have no talent? Garfield asked at a press conference with Gov. Chris Sununu, a Republican.

She also said it was difficult to find a place to get tested for the virus. When available, they can cost $ 200.

“That’s the difference between eating and fasting,” Garfield said. “So what are these employees going to do? They are going to move to another employer with fewer than 100 employees. “

The administration announced plans to set the workplace rule in September and unveiled the plans on November 4. Many Republican governors and state attorneys general made it clear in advance that they would immediately challenge him, as they did with numerous federal lawsuits filed on Friday.

The states have filed with the nation’s most conservative appellate courts, where former President Donald Trump’s appointees supported a Republican-appointed majority. It was not entirely clear whether the emergency deferral granted on Saturday by the 5th arrondissement extended to the entire country or only to the states that filed the case – Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas and Utah.

The 5th Circuit’s order read “The mandate remains in effect pending further action by this court,” but did not specify whether it only applied to five states. Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry said it was filed nationally, but says those filed in various courts asked for clarification on Monday.

“While the Fifth Circuit ruling could be interpreted as having national effect, it does not make a clear statement on this matter,” the state said in a statement to the St. Louis 8th Circuit Court of Appeals. “To avoid confusion and to ensure full protection of their rights, the applicants respectfully ask this Court to issue a similar order here.”

Alabama, Florida and Georgia also asked to remain on Monday at the 11th US District Court of Appeals in Atlanta, noting that the ruling in the New Orleans court is temporary. A group of states, businesses and organizations challenging the rule in court in St. Louis called for a swift review of their objections to the rule in the workplace.

“Thousands of employers and millions of working families will immediately feel its impact. The court must act promptly to prevent these illegal and unconstitutional injuries, ”the groups said in court documents.

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Associated Press writers Josh Boak and Zeke Miller in Washington DC; Andrew DeMillo in Little Rock, Arkansas; and Katie McCormack of Concord, New Hampshire contributed to this report.

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