JEFFERSON CITY, Missouri – A federal judge on Monday barred President Joe Biden’s administration from applying a coronavirus vaccine warrant to thousands of healthcare workers in 10 states that had filed the first court challenge against the requirement.
The court order said the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid had no clear authority from Congress to promulgate the vaccine mandate for providers participating in the two government health care programs for the elderly, disabled and poor.
St. Louis-based U.S. District Judge Matthew Schelp’s preliminary injunction applies to a coalition of litigation states that includes Alaska, Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming. All of these states have either a Republican Attorney General or a Governor. Similar lawsuits are also underway in other states.
The federal rule requires COVID-19 vaccinations for more than 17 million workers nationwide in approximately 76,000 health facilities and home care providers who receive funding from government health programs. Workers are to receive their first dose by December 6 and their second injection by January 4.
The court order against the health care vaccination warrant comes after the Biden administration suffered a similar setback for broader policy. A federal court previously suspended a separate rule requiring companies with more than 100 employees to ensure their employees are vaccinated or else wear masks and get tested weekly for the coronavirus.
The Biden administration maintains that federal rules replace state policies banning vaccination warrants and are essential in slowing the pandemic, which has killed more than 775,000 people in the United States. About three-fifths of the American population are already fully immunized.
But the judge in the health care provider case wrote that federal officials had likely exceeded their legal powers.
“CMS seeks to transcend an area of traditional state authority by imposing an unprecedented demand to dictate federally the private medical decisions of millions of Americans. Such action challenges traditional notions of federalism, ”Schelp wrote in his ordinance.
Even under an extremely broad interpretation of federal powers, Congress did not clearly authorize CMS to enact “this politically and economically broad mandate, modifying federalism and pushing boundaries,” wrote Schelp, who was appointed to the bench by former President Donald Trump. .
While a vaccine requirement may make sense for long-term care facilities, Schelp wrote, CMS lacks evidence to impose it on other health care providers and has ignored evidence that the mandate could jeopardize understaffed establishments. The judge also said CMS improperly circumvented public notice and comment requirements when issuing the emergency rule, which “fuels the very hesitation over the vaccine that CMS acknowledges. be so intimidating “.
A CMS spokesperson said the agency was reviewing the court order.
“Staff in any healthcare facility who are not vaccinated pose both a direct and indirect threat to patient safety and the health of the population,” CMS said in a statement Monday. “This is why it is essential for healthcare providers to make sure their staff are vaccinated against COVID-19. “
Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt, who led the trial, said the ruling “pushes back the overbreadth of power” by those who “use the coronavirus as a tool” to control people.
Officials from several states also welcomed the court ruling. New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu said “nursing homes are in danger of closing” if the tenure remains.
Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds says vaccine is the best defense against COVID-19, but healthcare providers “deserve the freedom and the ability to make their own, informed healthcare decisions “.