The Biden administration asked a federal appeals court on November 23 to lift a court-ordered stay on a sweeping workplace coronavirus vaccine rule to avoid serious harm to public health, or to allow a masking-and-testing requirement. Delaying the rule by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) that requires employees to be vaccinated or tested weekly would lead to thousands of hospitalizations and deaths, the administration said in a filing with the 6th US Circuit Court of Appeals. The White House asked for the rule to be reinstated immediately, but the court set a briefing schedule that runs through December 10.
President Joe Biden has issued several rules aimed at encouraging vaccinations, although OSHA’s November 5 standard is the most far-reaching. The OSHA rule requires businesses with at least 100 employees, covering tens of millions of American workers, to comply by January 4. Although 82% of US adults have gotten at least one vaccine dose, requiring shots against the coronavirus has become a divisive political issue over trade-offs between civil liberty and public health. The rule was challenged by Republican-led states, businesses, and trade groups, and it was quickly blocked by the 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, which called it “staggeringly overbroad” and a “one-size-fits-all sledgehammer.”
After the stay was imposed, lawsuits from across the country were transferred to the 6th Circuit in Cincinnati. That has allowed the Biden administration to ask for the 5th Circuit ruling to be reviewed. The administration said in its filing that if the ruling remained, it should at least be modified to allow the masking-and-testing requirement. A modified stay would also shield employers from state and local laws banning vaccine and mask mandates, the administration said.