GE Suspends Covid Vaccination and Testing Rules After Supreme Court Blocks Biden’s Mandate

An employee helps install a traction motor on a General Electric Evolution Series Tier 4 diesel locomotive truck at GE Manufacturing Solutions in Fort Worth, Texas.

Luke Sharrett | Bloomberg | Getty Images

General Electric on Friday suspended its Covid vaccine and testing requirements after the Supreme Court blocked the Biden administration’s mandate, a company spokesman told CNBC.

A spokesman for GE, which had 174,000 employees at the end of 2020, urged its employees to get vaccinated.

The Supreme Court’s conservative majority, in a 6-3 ruling, called the administration’s demands a “crude tool” that “does not discriminate based on industry or risk of contracting Covid-19.”

President Joe Biden, in a statement following the court decision, urged companies to voluntarily comply with vaccination and testing regulations.

“The court ruled that my administration cannot use the authority granted to it by Congress to demand this measure,” Biden said. “But that doesn’t stop me from using my voice as president to advocate for employers to do the right thing to protect the health and economy of Americans.”

Labor Secretary Marty Walsh has vowed to use the existing powers of the Occupational Health and Safety Administration to hold businesses accountable for protecting workers from Covid.

“We urge all employers to require workers to be vaccinated or tested weekly to most effectively fight this deadly virus in the workplace,” Walsh said in a statement Thursday. “Employers are responsible for the safety of their employees at work.”

The American Medical Association, one of the largest medical groups in the US, said the Supreme Court has blocked “one of the most effective tools in the fight against further transmission and death from this aggressive virus.”

“Workplace transmission has been a major driver of the spread of COVID-19,” said AMA President Gerald Harmon. “Now more than ever, workers in all settings across the country need common sense, evidence-based protection against COVID-19 infection, hospitalization and death.”

Harmon urged businesses to protect their workers from Covid. A number of major companies, including Citigroup, Nike and Columbia Sportswear, have said they will start laying off unvaccinated workers.

The micromicron Covid variant is leading to unprecedented levels of new infections. The U.S. is averaging more than 786,000 new infections daily, up 29% from last week, according to CNBC’s analysis of data from Johns Hopkins University.

According to federal data for the summer of 2020, the number of hospitalizations is at the peak of the pandemic. As of Friday, about 151,000 Americans are in hospital with Covid, health and human services data show an average of seven days, up 23% from a week. ago. This figure includes both patients who were hospitalized due to Covid and those who tested positive after being hospitalized.

— Nate Rattner of CNBC contributed to this report.

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