The nation’s highest court is being asked to clarify whether implementation of the mandate can proceed.
The Supreme Court is set to provide a measure of clarity on the Biden administration’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for healthcare workers after establishing a deadline of Dec. 30 for challenger-states to file briefs.
The court’s eventual ruling may eliminate the potential for the country to be temporarily split between states in which the mandate is in place and those in which injunctions prevent enforcement.
That prospect seemed possible after an appeals court ruled Dec. 15 that a previous injunction could not be implemented nationally, as a lower court had ruled it should, but rather only in states that had been parties to one of two lawsuits challenging the mandate.
Dec. 23 update: The court has set a one-hour hearing on Friday, Jan. 7 for the federal government and challengers to present arguments as to whether injunctions should remain in place on both the COVID-19 vaccination mandate for healthcare workers and a rule requiring businesses with at least 100 employees to ensure staff either are vaccinated or get tested weekly.
A total of 24 states were plaintiffs in the two cases, and late last week, a federal court granted an injunction in a separate case filed by Texas.
Rather than seek to enforce the mandate in half the country, the Biden administration asked the Supreme Court to put the injunctions on hold while the cases play out. The CMS website continues to state that enforcement of the mandate is paused.
Although the Supreme Court’s ruling technically would be a narrow decision about the injunctions, it could serve as guidance on the court’s view of the legality of the mandate and therefore help determine the rule’s ultimate fate.
The mandate was supposed to be implemented starting Dec. 6, by which date healthcare workers in most settings needed to receive the first dose of a two-dose vaccine regimen unless they had a valid medical or religious exemption. That also was the deadline for hospitals and other affected healthcare organizations to ensure they had processes for tracking vaccinations and exemptions among staff.
By Jan. 4, staff needed to be fully vaccinated or their organization would face penalties, which for prolonged violations could include expulsion from Medicare and Medicaid.