The Supreme Court on Thursday issued mixed rulings in a pair of cases challenging Biden administration COVID-19 vaccine mandates, allowing the requirement for certain health care workers to go into effect while blocking enforcement of a mandate for businesses with 100 or more employees.
The latter, an Occupational Safety and Health Administration rule that took effect on Monday, said that businesses with at least 100 employees needed to require workers to get vaccinated, or get tested weekly and wear a mask.
The Court ruled that OSHA lacked the authority to impose such a mandate because the law that created OSHA “empowers the Secretary to set workplace safety standards, not broad public health measures.”
“Although COVID-19 is a risk that occurs in many workplaces, it is not an occupational hazard in most,” the Court ruled. “COVID–19 can and does spread at home, in schools, during sporting events, and everywhere else that people gather. That kind of universal risk is no different from the day-to-day dangers that all face from crime, air pollution, or any number of communicable diseases.”
For these reasons, the OSHA mandate “would significantly expand” the agency’s authority beyond the limits Congress set, the Court ruled.
By contrast, in Biden v. Missouri, the Court ruled that Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra did have the authority to require all health care workers at institutions that receive Medicare and Medicaid funding to get the jab, unless they get medical or religious exemptions.
While multiple states argued that HHS did not have the scope to issue such a mandate, the Court noted that “healthcare facilities that wish to participate in Medicare and Medicaid have always been obligated to satisfy a host of conditions that address the safe and effective provision of healthcare, not simply sound accounting.”