10 states win court bid to block Biden’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for health workers

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A federal judge on Monday blocked President Joe Biden’s administration from enforcing a COVID-19 vaccine mandate on thousands of health care workers in 10 states, bringing the first legal challenge against the requirement.

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The court order said the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid had no explicit authority from Congress to enforce vaccine mandates for providers participating in two government health care programs for the elderly, disabled and poor.

The preliminary injunction by US District Judge Matthew Shelp in St. Louis applies to a coalition of litigating states that includes Alaska, Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming. All of those states have either Republican attorney generals or governors. Similar litigations are pending in other states as well.

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The federal rule requires COVID-19 vaccinations for more than 17 million workers in about 76,000 health care facilities and home health care providers nationwide who receive funding from government health programs. The workers are to get their first dose by December 6 and their second dose by January 4.

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The court order against the health care vaccine mandate comes after Biden’s administration suffered a similar setback to broader policy. A federal court previously struck down a separate rule requiring businesses with more than 100 employees to ensure their employees are vaccinated or wear masks and test weekly for the coronavirus.

Biden’s administration opposes federal regulations that overshadow state policies that restrict vaccine mandates and are needed to slow the pandemic, which has killed more than 775,000 people in the US, nearly half of the US population. Three-fifths are already fully vaccinated.

But the judge in the health care provider case wrote that federal officials had overstepped their legal powers.

“CMS seeks to transcend the realm of traditional state authority by enforcing the unprecedented demand to federally direct the private medical decisions of millions of Americans. Such action challenges traditional notions of federalism,” said Shelp. written in the order.

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Even under the overly broad interpretation of federal powers, Congress did not expressly authorize the CMS to enact a “politically and economically vast, federalism-changing, and boundary-pushing mandate”, Scalp wrote, Which was appointed to the bench by former President Donald Trump. ,

While the need for the vaccine may be understandable for long-term care facilities, Skelp wrote, the CMS lacked evidence to impose it on other health care providers and overlooked that the mandate could endanger underserved facilities. Is. The judge also said that CMS unreasonably bypassed the public notice and comment requirements when issuing the emergency rule, which “feeds into much of Vaccine’s hesitation that CMS acknowledges is too difficult.”

A CMS spokesperson said the agency is reviewing the court’s order.

“Staff in any health care setting that poses both a direct and indirect threat to patient safety and population health without being vaccinated,” CMS said in a statement on Monday. “That’s why it’s important for health care providers to make sure their employees are vaccinated against COVID-19.”

Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmidt, who led the trial, said the ruling “pushes back on the redundancy of power” who are “using the coronavirus as a tool” to gain control over people.

Officials of many states also praised the court’s decision. New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu said “nursing homes were in danger of closing” if the mandate remained in place.

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Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds said the vaccine is the best defense against COVID-19, but that medical providers “deserve the freedom and the ability to make their own informed health care decisions.”

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