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Supreme Court blocks Biden vaccine mandate for businesses, keeps mandate for health care workers

The highest court in the US has blocked Biden's vaccine-or-test mandate for businesses, but many cities and states have imposed their own COVID-19 rules.

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The vaccine mandate remains in place for federally funded health care facilities.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The Supreme Court on Thursday blocked the Biden administration's COVID-19 vaccine-or-test mandate for businesses with 100 or more workers, but kept the mandate for health care workers at federally funded health care facilities. 

The COVID-19 vaccine mandate for health care workers requires all employees at hospitals or other facilities that receive Medicare or Medicaid payments from the government to be fully vaccinated. This affects more than 17 million health care workers, according to the White House.

The blocked mandate would have required workers at all companies of at least 100 workers be vaccinated against COVID-19 or produce a weekly negative test. The rule, issued by the Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration, would have covered about 84 million employees, according to the Supreme Court's opinion

Louisiana, Texas, Utah, South Carolina and Mississippi joined with businesses as well as religious and advocacy organizations to file for a permanent injunction against the mandate, and it was temporarily blocked by a federal appeals panel in Louisiana in November before being reinstated after a decision by the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in Cincinnati in December.

The Supreme Court's vote on Thursday to block the employee mandate was 6 to 3, while the vote to uphold the health care worker mandate was 5 to 4, The New York Times reported. Members of the court's conservative majority had earlier appeared doubtful that the White House had congressional authorization to put the requirements in place, the Times said.

The decision comes as COVID-19 cases are rapidly on the rise across the US due to the emergence of the highly infectious omicron variant. Currently, there are more than 155,000 people being treated for COVID-19 in hospitals across the nation, the Department of Health and Human Services reported. US President Joe Biden said Thursday he is deploying military medical personnel to New York, New Jersey, Ohio, Michigan, Rhode Island and New Mexico to aid in treating COVID patients in hospitals.

Outside of federal rules, states and cities have enacted their own COVID-19 vaccine mandates, including in Philadelphia where all city workers must be vaccinated by Jan. 14. On Friday, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul joined California and New Mexico in creating a booster mandate for all state health care workers.

Read more: Biden COVID vaccine mandate: Which US workers need proof of vaccination?

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.