Navigation
  •  
HFP

Federal judges block Biden coronavirus vaccine mandate for federal contractors, health-care workers

A judge's gavel. (Dreamstime/TNS)

Federal judges on Tuesday issued a preliminary injunctions temporarily halting the Biden administration’s coronavirus vaccine mandate for health-care workers and employees of federal contractors in Ohio and a number of other states.

U.S. District Court Judge Terry Doughty, of the Western District of Louisiana, issued an order holding up President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate for health-care workers in Ohio and 39 other states where the mandate wasn’t already blocked by a separate court injunction released Monday.

Meanwhile, U.S. District Court Judge Gregory F. Van Tatenhove of the Eastern District of Kentucky, in his order, found that President Joe Biden exceeded his authority by issuing the vaccine mandate for federal contractors in Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee.

Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost, a Columbus Republican, had his state join both lawsuits. The sheriffs of Geauga and Seneca counties, as well as the states of Kentucky and Tennessee, were also plaintiffs in the suit contesting the vaccine mandate for federal contractors.

Doughty’s order holds up for now a new federal rule that requires about 17 million staffers at health-care facilities that participate in the Medicare and Medicaid programs to be fully vaccinated by Jan. 4 unless they have a medical or religious exemption. Doughty was appointed to the federal bench by former President Donald Trump and was unanimously confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

Under the mandate, health-care facilities that have unvaccinated employees after that date could face financial penalties, be denied payments, or even be terminated from the Medicare and Medicaid programs, according to the White House.

Besides Ohio, 13 other states with Republican attorneys general are plaintiffs in the lawsuit challenging the health-care worker vaccine mandate.

Van Tatenhove, appointed by Republican President George W. Bush and confirmed by a Senate voice vote, wrote in his order that vaccines are effective and that the government “at some level, and in some circumstances, can require citizens to obtain vaccines.” But, he continued, “in all likelihood,” Biden can’t rely on his congressionally delegated powers to require employees of federal contractors to be vaccinated.

The mandate requires employees of federal contractors to be fully vaccinated by Dec. 8. As the lawsuit notes, that means such workers must have received the final dose of a vaccine by Nov. 24, as it takes two weeks after the final shot for people to be considered fully vaccinated.

The vaccine requirement applies to federal contracts awarded after Nov. 14, contracts renewed after Oct. 14, and new solicitations for contracts made on Oct. 15 or later.

The lawsuit claims the Biden administration’s mandate is “unlawful and unconstitutional.” It also asserts that the mandate will result in county sheriffs having to give up federal contracts to house Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainees rather than lose “a lot” of sheriff’s deputies who aren’t fully vaccinated.

“This is not about vaccines, it’s about the mandates,” said Yost in a statement. “The judge’s opinion clearly states that, and it has been our position all along that the president cannot impose these mandates on the people.”

Van Tatenhove cited federal statistics showing that in 2020, federal contractors located in Ohio received nearly $12 billion in federal contracts and that nearly $9 billion in federal contracts involved work performed in the state.

The two injunctions don’t touch on a third part of Biden’s vaccine mandate, which requires employees at companies with 100 or more employees must be vaccinated by Jan. 4 or get tested for the virus weekly. Companies that don’t follow the mandate could face penalties of nearly $14,000 per violation.

Yost has joined a third lawsuit challenging that part of the mandate as well.

___

© 2021 Advance Local Media LLC

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.