The US Supreme Court has blocked President Joe Biden's mandate requiring workers at large companies to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or undergo weekly testing and wear a mask on the job.
The ruling, which came through on January 13, argued that the move would overstep the Biden administration's authority. President Biden expressed disappointment at the move, saying "the Supreme Court has chosen to block common-sense life-saving requirements for employees at large businesses that were grounded squarely in both science and the law." He added it's now the responsibility of individuals, companies, and states to make the move themselves.
“The Court has ruled that my administration cannot use the authority granted to it by Congress to require this measure, but that does not stop me from using my voice as President to advocate for employers to do the right thing to protect Americans’ health and economy,” said President Biden. “I call on business leaders to immediately join those who have already stepped up – including one third of Fortune 100 companies – and institute vaccination requirements to protect their workers, customers, and communities.”
"It is now up to States and individual employers to determine whether to make their workplaces as safe as possible for employees, and whether their businesses will be safe for consumers during this pandemic by requiring employees to take the simple and effective step of getting vaccinated," he continued.
The vaccine-or-test policy was first announced by Biden in September 2021. It stated any private companies with more than 100 employees must ensure their workforce is either vaccinated or tested weekly for COVID-19. If they didn’t comply, they could have faced fines of up to $14,000 per violation.
Meanwhile, a separate ruling saw the Supreme Court endorse a federal vaccine requirement for healthcare facilities. As per Reuters, this mandate will require the vaccination for about 10.3 million workers at 76,000 healthcare facilities accepting money from the Medicare and Medicaid government health insurance programs for disabled, elderly, and low-income citizens. The rule does, however, contain certain medical and religious exemptions.
The vaccine-or-test policy blocked this week met considerable resistance from Republican states and some business groups, who believed the mandate was an excess of state power and could burden small business owners.
Generally speaking, vaccine mandates are an incredibly divisive topic, but some polls and surveys suggest they are surprisingly popular in the US. One survey in August 2021 showed that 60 percent of Americans backed vaccine mandates for frontline workers and members of Congress, while a COVID States Project survey from July 2021 found “high public support for mandating vaccines” with up to 64 percent of the surveyed Americans supporting the move.