WASHINGTON (AP) – President Joe Biden’s administration asked a federal court on Tuesday to allow it to proceed with an order that will require employees of companies with 100 or more people to be vaccinated against Covid-19 or take weekly tests.
The mandate is a key part of the federal government’s efforts to limit the spread of the disease when infections and hospital stays increase just before the start of the winter season.
Republican prosecutors, conservative organizations and some companies claim that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration – known by the acronym OSHA, a branch of the US Department of Labor – lacks jurisdiction to require vaccines and succeeded in persuading a federal court to suspend the order.
Lawyers for OSHA and the Department of Justice told the Federal Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit that the mandate was necessary to reduce the transmission of the virus in the workplace “and the serious harm that the virus inflicts on workers.”
They claimed that the said order would prevent 6,500 workers from dying and that 250,000 would be hospitalized in six months. The pandemic has already killed more than 750,000 people in the United States, and infections have increased rapidly in recent weeks.
If the OSHA rule is maintained, it would enter into force on January 4 and apply to private companies with 100 or more employees, affecting approximately 84 million workers in the country, who would need to be vaccinated against Covid-19 or receive weekly tests, and wear a mask at the workplace. There are exceptions for employees who work from home, alone or outdoors.
The legal dispute over such an order is one of several challenges regarding vaccine application facing the Biden administration. To date, the courts have not stopped two more mandates: one for healthcare professionals and one for federal state contractors.