The Biden administration on Tuesday said it is withdrawing its Covid-19 vaccine-or-test mandate for large employers. The move comes after the Supreme Court blocked the rule earlier this month.
The mandate, which required businesses with 100 or more employees to get their shots or be tested regularly and wear a face covering at work, was a key element of President Biden’s push to increase vaccination rates. It was expected to apply to some 84 million workers, and officials reportedly estimated that it would save thousands of lives prevent more than 250,000 hospitalizations over the first six months.
But the requirement was quickly greeted with legal challenges and the Supreme Court ruled on January 13 that the mandate published by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) had overstepped federal authority. The court allowed a separate vaccine requirement for certain health care workers to stand.
The high court decision covering businesses, a 6-3 split between the conservative majority and liberal minority of justices, left the Biden administration little choice. "After evaluating the Court's decision, OSHA is withdrawing the Vaccination and Testing ETS as an enforceable emergency temporary standard," the agency wrote in a document set to be published Wednesday in the Federal Register, adding that it “continues to strongly encourage the vaccination of workers against the continuing dangers posed by Covid-19 in the workplace.”
The bottom line: “It’s their admitting what everyone had been saying, which is that the rule is dead,” Brett Coburn, a lawyer at Alston & Bird, told The New York Times.