U.S. President Joe Biden talks about his administration’s efforts to ease supply chain problems during the holiday season at the White House in Washington on December 1, 2021.
Kevin Lamarck | Reuters
On Thursday, President Joe Biden urged businesses to voluntarily move forward with the introduction of the Covid-19 vaccine administration and testing requirements, even as the rule is being challenged in court after US officials confirmed the first case of an omicron variant in the US.
“We ask companies to take a step forward and do what is right to protect our people and protect our communities, which is some kind of vaccination or testing requirements in the workplace,” said a senior administration official.
The administration’s request came after California health officials discovered the first case in the United States of the omicron variant of Covid this week. Health officials in the US and elsewhere are concerned that the omicron, which has about 50 mutations, may be more transmissible than previous strains of the virus and may elude vaccine protection to some extent.
The Biden administration made sure businesses with 100 or more employees by January 4 make sure their employees are either vaccinated against Covid or test negative weekly before going to work. Unvaccinated employees were scheduled to start wearing masks indoors in the workplace on December 5.
However, last month, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration suspended enforcement after the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit suspended its review of the policy. Judge Kurt D. Engelhardt, in his opinion to a panel of three judges, stated that the claims were “fatally flawed” and caused “serious constitutional problems.”
Republican attorneys general, private business, and industry groups such as the National Retail Federation, the American Freight Forwarding Associations, and the National Federation of Independent Business have all sued to overturn the policy. Unions are asking courts to expand requirements to cover small businesses and protect more workers.
More than two dozen lawsuits were brought to the US Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals last month after the Biden administration asked a multi-window judicial panel to randomly combine cases in a single court.
Last week, the Justice Department asked the Sixth District to immediately reinstate vaccination and testing requirements. The petition was filed on November 23, just days before the omicron option caught the attention of the international community. Health officials were already concerned about a possible outbreak of the coronavirus in the winter.
Biden administration officials told the court that “the threat to workers is constant and insurmountable.”
“Simply put, the delay in the introduction of the Standard is likely to cost many lives per day, in addition to the high number of hospitalizations, other serious health consequences and huge costs. This is an aggregate of harm of the highest order, ”the Ministry of Justice argued in a statement. traffic.
The Biden administration has asked the court to at least reinstate vaccine and testing requirements as a bridge to protect workers in the midst of the trial. The Sixth District has yet to decide whether to allow the continuation of the policy.
The administration also asked the court to approve an expedited timetable, under which oral arguments will be held as soon as possible following the submission of the final notes on December 29. The Justice Department told the court that a “quick fix” was warranted because “the lives and health of thousands of American workers are at stake.”
OSHA, which oversees workplace safety for the Department of Labor, has released vaccines and testing requirements in line with its emergency response mandate set by Congress. The agency could shorten the normal rule-making process if the Minister of Labor determines that a new workplace safety standard is needed to protect workers from serious hazards. The White House has repeatedly argued that Covid poses such a threat, pointing to the staggering death toll and high infection rates across the country.
Last month, doctors, nurses, emergency department doctors and pharmacists urged businesses to meet the requirements. The coalition includes the American Medical Association, the American College of Physicians, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Emergency Physicians, and the National League of Nurses, among many others.
“We – doctors, nurses and frontline clinicians, health experts and professional communities – fully support the requirement that employees in companies with more than 100 people be vaccinated or tested,” the groups said in a joint statement. “We urge all businesses with 100 or more employees not to delay implementing this standard.”