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The Supreme Court on Thursday, January 13, 2022, blocked the Biden administration’s Covid-19 vaccine-or-testing rules for large private employers, upending the government’s most aggressive effort to combat the pandemic in the workplace. The high court, however, did give the administration more latitude in the healthcare industry, allowing it to impose a vaccine mandate for more than 10 million healthcare workers whose facilities participate in Medicare and Medicaid, a holding that leaves one part of the president’s Covid-19 playbook in place. The private-employer requirements, for businesses with 100 or more employees, would have applied to an estimated 84 million workers. The court’s conservative majority, in an unsigned opinion, said the Biden administration likely didn’t have the unilateral power to impose a mandate that employers ensure their workers were vaccinated or tested every week for Covid-19. Three liberal justices dissented. In allowing the vaccine mandate for healthcare workers, conservatives Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Brett Kavanaugh joined the three liberals to form a 5-4 majority, allowing that requirement to take effect nationwide. “Today’s ruling protects our individual rights and states’ rights to pursue the solutions that work best for their citizens,” said Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost, who led a coalition of Republican-leaning states that challenged the OSHA rule. The court’s actions come as Covid-19 has been spreading at record rates in the U.S. Republican-led states and business groups sued to block the federal requirements, arguing the Biden administration was engaged in unlawful overreach that wasn’t rendered permissible by the public-health crisis. Technically, the Supreme Court wasn’t considering the full merits of the administration’s mandates. Instead, the justices heard the cases on an emergency basis to decide whether the regulations could go into effect right now while more detailed litigation continued in the lower courts.
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