WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) — The Supreme Court has stopped the Biden administration from enforcing a requirement that employees at large businesses be vaccinated against COVID-19 or undergo weekly testing and wear a mask on the job.
At the same time, the court is allowing the administration to proceed with a vaccine mandate for most health care workers in the U.S.
The court’s conservative majority concluded the administration overstepped its authority by seeking to impose the vaccine-or-test rule on U.S. businesses with at least 100 employees. More than 80 million people would have been affected by the mandate.
“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 conservatives wrote in an unsigned opinion.
In dissent, the court’s three liberals argued that it was the court that was overreaching by substituting its judgments for health experts. “Acting outside of its competence and without legal basis, the Court displaces the judgments of the Government officials given the responsibility to respond to workplace health emergencies,” Justices Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor wrote in a joint dissent.
The vaccine mandate that the court will allow to be enforced nationwide covers virtually all health care workers in the country. It applies to health care providers that receive federal Medicare or Medicaid funding, potentially affecting 76,000 health care facilities as well as home health care providers. The rule has medical and religious exemptions.
The decision came after a NewsNation poll of 1,000 registered voters, completed this week by Decision Desk HQ, found that mask requirements are more popular than vaccine requirements. The poll found more people approve of indoor mask requirements than vaccine requirements — and by nearly 20 percentage points. You can read the full NewsNation poll here.
This was the first time the high court weighed in on the administration’s COVID-19 vaccine policies, although justices have turned away pleas to block state-level mandates before.
In October 2021, the Supreme Court upheld Indiana University’s vaccine mandate. It did the same for a mandate for health care workers in Maine, and then again for health care employees in New York.
The Supreme Court has not always supported the government’s actions during the pandemic, however. A ban in New York on in-person religious events was overturned, as was the federal government’s eviction moratorium.
About 33% of all Americans have received their booster shot, according to data to compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 62% of the population is considered fully vaccinated, according to CDC data.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.