A federal appeals court temporarily blocked President Joe Biden’s Covid vaccine and testing requirements for private businesses on Saturday, just a day after they had officially gone into effect.
The Republican attorneys general of Texas, South Carolina, Louisiana, Mississippi and Utah, as well as several private companies, filed petitions on Friday challenging the mandate in the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.
The court on Saturday ordered the vaccine and testing requirements halted pending review “because the petitions give cause to believe there are grave statutory and constitutional issues with the Mandate.”
The Biden administration has until Monday evening to respond.
The Labor Department’s top lawyer, Seema Nanda, said the administration is “fully prepared to defend this standard in court.”
OSHA, which polices workplace safety for the Labor Department, developed the vaccine and testing requirements under emergency authority that allows the agency to shortcut the process to issue workplace safety standards, which normally take years.
“The Occupational Safety and Health Act explicitly gives OSHA the authority to act quickly in an emergency where the agency finds that workers are subjected to a grave danger and a new standard is necessary to protect them,” Nanda said in a statement Friday, after the Republican attorneys general and companies filed their challenge.
Under the mandates, companies with 100 or more employees must ensure their staff has received the shots necessary for full vaccination by Jan. 4. After that date, unvaccinated employees must submit weekly negative Covid-19 tests to enter the workplace. Unvaccinated workers must start wearing masks indoors at their workplaces starting Dec. 5.
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