The Biden administration on Tuesday was blocked from enforcing two mandates requiring millions of U.S. workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19, an important part of its strategy to control the spread of coronavirus.
U.S. District Judge Terry Doughty of Monroe, Louisiana, temporarily blocked the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) from enforcing their health care vaccine mandate until the court can resolve legal challenges.
Doughty’s decision applied nationwide, except in 10 states where the CMS was already prevented from enforcing the rule due to a prior order from a federal judge in St. Louis. Louis.
Doughty said the CMS lacked the authority to issue a vaccine mandate that would require more than 2 million unvaccinated health workers to get a coronavirus shot.
“There is no doubt that the mandate for a vaccine for 10.3 million health workers is something that should be done by Congress, not a government body,” Doughty wrote.
Separately, U.S. District Judge Gregory Van Tatenhove of Frankfort, Kentucky, blocked the administration from enforcing a regulation requiring new government contracts to include clauses requiring contractors’ employees to be vaccinated.
The contractor’s decision applied in the three states that had brought the case, Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee, one of at least 13 legal challenges nationwide against the regulation. This appears to be the first ruling against the contractor’s vaccine mandate.
The White House declined to comment.
The legal setbacks for President Joe Biden’s vaccine policy come as concerns that the Omicron coronavirus variant could trigger a new wave of infections and limit travel and economic activity across the globe.
Biden revealed rules in September to increase the U.S. adult vaccination rate beyond the current 71% as a way to fight the pandemic that has killed more than 750,000 Americans and weighed on the economy.
Republican state attorneys, conservative groups and trade unions have sued to stop the rules.
Tuesday’s rulings add a number of court losses for the Biden administration over its COVID-19 policies.
The most pervasive regulation, a mandate for vaccine or on-the-job testing for companies with at least 100 employees, was temporarily blocked by a federal appeals court in early November.
In August, the U.S. Supreme Court ended the administration’s pandemic-related federal moratorium on housing evictions.
(Reporting by Tom Hals in Wilmington, Delaware; Additional reporting by Nandita Bose in Washington; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Peter Cooney)
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