The Supreme Court on Friday will take up two Biden administration COVID-19 policies — the vaccine-or-test requirement for private businesses and the vaccine mandate for most health care workers — as the country grapples with the latest wave of infections.
The conservative-leaning court will hear arguments over the administration’s order for all employers with over 100 employees to require staffers to be vaccinated or be subjected to weekly testing – affecting nearly two-thirds of the private sector and almost 100 million workers. The order is scheduled to go into effect Monday and businesses will face fines if they don’t comply by February.
Separately, the justices will look at a mandate issued by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services that requires employees at hospitals, nursing homes or other healthcare facilities that receive federal funding to be vaccinated – with some medical or religious exemptions.
As the cases were submitted to the highest court under emergency basis, the court scheduled arguments rather than just ruling on briefs, according to the Associated Press.
A ruling could come within days or weeks.
The cases will be heard over multiple hours in a closed courtroom where only the judges, relevant lawyers, court staff and journalists will be in attendance. The public can tune in via livestream.
The arguments come as the Biden administration pushes to get more Americans vaccinated amid the massive spike in COVID-19 cases following holiday season.
Efforts by the Biden administration and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to implement the vaccine requirements were halted late last year after several Republican-led states challenged the orders.
Many have attributed the surge to the Omicron variant, with the CDC estimating it represents roughly 95 percent of cases in the country, while the Delta variant is behind the remaining five percent.
Eric Schmitt, Missouri’s Republican attorney general, slammed the order, telling Fox News, “The federal government is supposed to be one of limited powers. And forcing the vaccine on tens of millions of Americans isn’t one of them.”
“OSHA is in charge of making sure forklifts beep when they back up, not forcing these kinds of vaccinations,” he added.
Twenty-four states have seen federal courts block the healthcare mandate, which would affect up to 76,000 healthcare facilities.
Many Republicans are hopeful the conservative majority in the court will lead to a ruling in their favor.
However, the Supreme Court has allowed states – such as New York, New Mexico and Maine – to implement their own vaccine and testing mandates.
In December, the White House defended the orders, citing the recent surge of the Omicron variant.
“Especially as the US faces the highly transmissible Omicron variant, it is critical to protect workers with vaccination requirements and testing protocols that are urgently needed,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement. “At a critical moment for the nation’s health, the OSHA vaccination or testing rule ensures that employers are protecting their employees and the CMS health care vaccination requirement ensures that providers are protecting their patients.
“We are confident in the legal authority for both policies and DOJ will vigorously defend both at the Supreme Court.”