Federal court declines to lift stay on vaccine mandate

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FILE – Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, left, listens as Attorney General Jeff Landry, right, speaks about medicines being donated by drug companies to help the fight against COVID-19 at the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security & Emergency Management, April 6, 2020, in Baton Rouge, La. On Friday, Nov. 12, 2021, a federal court declined to lift its stay on the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate for businesses with 100 or more workers. (Bill Feig/The Advocate via AP, Pool, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — A federal court declined Friday to lift its stay on the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate for businesses with 100 or more workers.

The New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals granted anemergency stay last Saturday of the requirement by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration that those workers be vaccinated by Jan. 4 or face mask requirements and weekly tests.

Lawyers for the Justice and Labor departments filed a response Monday in which they said stopping the mandate from taking effect will only prolong the COVID-19 pandemic and would “cost dozens or even hundreds of lives per day.”

But the appeals court rejected that argument Friday. Judge Kurt D. Engelhardt wrote that the stay “is firmly in the public interest.”

“From economic uncertainty to workplace strife, the mere specter of the Mandate has contributed to untold economic upheaval in recent months,” Engelhardt wrote.

At least 27 states have filed legal challenges in at least six federal appeals courts after OSHA released its rules on Nov. 4. The federal government said in its court filings Monday that the cases should be consolidated and that one of the circuit courts where a legal challenge has been filed should be chosen at random on Nov. 16 to hear it.

Administration lawyers said there is no reason to keep the vaccine mandate on hold while the court where the cases ultimately land remains undetermined.

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