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The Biden administration asked a federal court on Tuesday to move forward with a workplace rule that would require employees of large companies to be vaccinated or face weekly testing against COVID-19.

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The mandate is a centerpiece of the administration’s efforts to stem the spread of COVID-19 as concerns grow that the nation is on the verge of another winter surge in virus cases and hospitalizations.

The Republican state attorney general, conservative organizations and some businesses argued that the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration lacked the authority to mandate vaccines and were able to persuade a separate federal court to block the workplace rule.

In their filing with the US 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, lawyers for the agency and the Justice Department said the mandate was needed to reduce virus transmission in workplaces “and the serious harm the virus inflicts on workers.”

It is estimated that the vaccine mandate would prevent 6,500 worker deaths and 250,000 hospitalizations in six months. The pandemic has killed more than 750,000 people in the US since 2020, and cases have been rising rapidly over the past several weeks.

If that happens, the OSHA rule will take effect January 4 and apply to private companies with 100 or more employees, affecting about 84 million workers across the US. Work. There are exceptions for employees working from home alone or outside.

A three-judge panel at the US 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans issued the stay, putting the mandate on hold. In a unanimous decision, the panel called the mandate a “one-size-fits-all sledgehammer that hardly makes any effort to take into account differences in workplaces (and workers) that have little to do with workers’ varying degrees of sensitivity.” There is a greater impact. There is believed to be a ‘grave threat’ to address the mandate.”

OSHA said last week that it was suspending implementation and enforcement because of the stay.

The US has a chance to attempt to reverse the stay as all challenges to the mandate are consolidated in another circuit court of appeals — the Cincinnati-based 6th Circuit, which was chosen at random last week.

Like the 5th, it is dominated by judges appointed by Republican presidents. This could be important in a legal battle over an issue where views are deeply divided along partisan lines.

In their filing on Tuesday, attorneys for the administration rejected an earlier decision to accept the argument that OSHA cannot regulate COVID-19 in part because it does not pose a specific threat to places of employment.

“The nature of workplaces is that employees come together and interact for extended periods in one place, thus risking workplace transmission of a highly contagious virus,” he said.

The state attorney general and others who are challenging the mandate have said the case should be considered by all of the 6th Circuit’s judges, rather than a three-judge panel. The court asked others to do so by Wednesday, and the opponents to respond by November 30, to those involved in that request.

The legal battle over vaccine mandates for large private employers is one of many challenges the Biden administration faces over vaccine regulations. Courts have not yet struck down two other mandates—one for healthcare workers and the other for contractors for the federal government.