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US Supreme Court splits Covid vaccine mandate

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Vaccination has become a politically polarizing issue in the United States

Washington:

The US Supreme Court on Friday was divided on President Joe Biden’s COVID vaccine-or-testing mandate in favor of liberal justice and conservatives for businesses expressing skepticism.

But the majority of the nine judges appeared to support the administration’s requirement that healthcare workers at facilities receiving federal funding get their shots.

After months of public appeals to Americans to get vaccinated against COVID-19, which has killed more than 830,000 people in the United States, Biden announced in September that he was making vaccinations mandatory at companies that employ 100 workers. or employ more.

Non-vaccinated employees must submit weekly negative tests and wear face masks at work.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), a federal agency, has given businesses until February 9 to comply with the rules or face the possibility of fines.

Vaccination has become a politically polarizing issue in the United States, where 62 percent of the population is vaccinated.

A coalition of 26 trade unions filed suit against OSHA rules and the conservative-dominated Supreme Court agreed to hold emergency hearings and hear arguments about a vaccine mandate for health workers, challenged by Republican state lawmakers is going

Three liberal judges in court strongly supported both mandates.

“Why is this not necessary to mitigate the serious risk?” Justice Elena Kagan asked attorneys representing business unions opposing the policy.

“This is a pandemic that has killed about a million people,” Kagan said. “This is by far the greatest public health threat this country has faced in the last century.

“And that’s the policy that’s most prepared to stop it all.”

Scott Keller, a former Texas solicitor general representing trade groups, said requiring Covid vaccinations at companies that employ 100 or more people would prompt many workers to leave.

“An economy-wide mandate would cause permanent worker displacement, ripple through our national economy,” Keller said.

Ohio Solicitor General Benjamin Flowers also argued against the OSHA rule, saying it “was not really intended to regulate workplace hazard.”

Testifying remotely by telephone after a positive COVID test, Flowers said that COVID is a “risk we all face – when we wake up, when we are with our family, when we go to work”. Stop by for coffee.”

Chief Justice John Roberts acknowledged there was “immediate pressure to address the problem” of the pandemic, but joined other conservative justices in questioning whether it should be federal officials who respond with the mandate.

“This is something the federal government has never done before, well, mandatory vaccine coverage?” He asked.

“Traditionally, states have a responsibility to oversee vaccination mandates,” said Justice Neil Gorsuch, also a conservative.

‘Nothing new’

The liberal, Justice Stephen Breuer, responded to Keller’s claims that many people could quit their jobs if forced to vaccinate.

“Some people may leave, maybe three percent,” he said.

“But when they find out they have to work together with other people, they can give it up, because it means they can get the disease,” Breuer said.

Republican lawmakers and business owners have argued that mandatory COVID shots are a violation of individual rights and an abuse of government power.

But Solicitor General Elizabeth Preloger argued for the Biden administration, saying the vaccination mandate is “nothing new.”

“Most of us have been subjected to mandatory vaccination requirements at various points,” Preloger said.

Louisiana Solicitor General Elizabeth Murrill argued against the vaccination mandate for healthcare workers, calling it a “bureaucratic power move that is unprecedented.”

Murrill, who also testified from afar, said healthcare workers would be forced to undergo “an aggressive, irreversible forced medical treatment, a COVID shot”.

Conservative judges in court appear to be more receptive to the government’s arguments in favor of requiring vaccinations for health care workers.

The Supreme Court is expected to rule soon, possibly within a few days.

Businesses with 100 or more employees represent about two-thirds of the private sector workforce in the United States, or about 80 million people.

The health worker mandate will apply to about 10 million people.

The Supreme Court has six conservative justices and three liberal justices, and they have all been vaccinated and received booster shots.

If the court blocks the vaccination mandate, it would be a major blow to Biden, who has brought the pandemic under control as one of his priorities but is battling a surge in cases from the Omicron version.

(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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