Federal appeals court calls Biden vaccine mandate ‘fatally flawed’ and ‘staggeringly overbroad’

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  • The US Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, in an opinion released Friday evening, confirmed its decision to halt the implementation of Biden vaccine requirements.
  • The court criticized the requirements as “a one-size-fits-all sledgehammer that makes no attempt to account for differences in workplaces (and workers).”
  • The Biden administration had asked the court to lift the pause, warning it would “likely kill dozens or even hundreds of lives per day” as the virus spreads.

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A federal appeals court has called President Joe Biden’s vaccine and testing requirements for private businesses “fatally flawed” and “shockingly overbroad”, arguing that the requirements exceed the federal government’s authority and “severe constitutional concerns”.

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The US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, in an opinion released Friday evening, reaffirmed their decision to halt implementation of the requirements, in another indication that they may not escape judicial scrutiny.

The appellate court, considered one of the most conservative in the country, originally halted the review requirements pending November 6 in response to challenges by Republican attorneys general of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina and Utah, with As well as many private companies.

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While the court has yet to rule on the constitutionality of the requirements, the three-judge panel clarified that lawsuits seeking to overturn the mandate are “likely to be successful on merits.” He criticized the requirements as “a one-size-fits-all sledgehammer that hardly makes any effort to account for differences in workplaces (and workers).”

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which regulates workplace safety for the Department of Labor, developed the requirements under emergency authority established by Congress. That authority allows the agency to shorten the process of issuing workplace safety and health standards it normally has for years.

OSHA can use its emergency authorization if the Secretary of Labor determines that a new safety or health standard is necessary to protect workers from a “serious hazard” posed by a new hazard. Judges on Friday questioned whether COVID posed a serious threat to all workers covered by the requirements, and argued that OSHA already had equipment it could use to fall short of the broader emergency safety standard.

The Biden administration on Monday asked the court to lift the pause, warning that “dozens or even hundreds of lives are likely to die per day” as the virus spreads. White House officials have repeatedly said that Covid clearly poses a serious threat to workers, pointing to the death toll from the virus and high levels of transmission in counties across the US.

The virus has killed more than 750,000 people in the US and infected more than 46 million since the pandemic began, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 1,000 Americans die from the virus every day and about 80,000 are infected every day, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

The White House has asked businesses to proceed to implement the requirements, even as there is a legal drama going on in the courts. Companies with 100 or more employees have until January 4 to make sure their employees get the shots they need for a full vaccination. After that date, non-vaccinated employees must submit a weekly negative COVID test to enter the workplace. Unvaccinated employees should start wearing masks indoors at the workplace from 5 December.

The Biden administration is facing a flurry of lawsuits seeking to overturn the mandate. Republican attorney generals in at least 26 states have challenged the requirements in five federal appellate courts. The cases will be consolidated into a single court through random selection among the courts in which the cases have been filed. The Justice Department said earlier this week that it expects the random selection to happen as soon as Tuesday.

David Vladeck, a law professor at Georgetown University, told CNBC that there is a “high probability” that the case will eventually end up in the Supreme Court, where there is a conservative majority.

“There are judges on the court who want to rein in the administrative situation, and this is a case that is likely to bring to light those concerns,” Vladek told CNBC on Monday.

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