The Supreme Court committed to ruling with uncommon urgency early in the new year on two cases challenging the constitutionality of Biden Administration regulations requiring vaccination or testing of workers against COVID-19. The court’s decision came on Wednesday night, as reported coronavirus cases jumped 38% and deaths increased 6% over the past 14 days.
The New York Times reports the court it set to hear oral argument on the emergency applications without full briefing on Friday, January 7. The justices had not been scheduled to return to the bench until the following Monday. The appeals are motivated by two measures, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s vaccine-or-testing mandate aimed at large employers and a vaccination requirement for certain health care workers.
A stay on enforcement of OSHA’s COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard, applicable to all employers of 100 or more, was lifted on December 17, and the agency moved back its compliance deadlines a few weeks. The broader workplace law, is currently in effect nationwide, but the healthcare-worker mandate remains blocked in half of the U.S. states.
It is estimated the OSHA emergency standard would affect more than 84 million workers, and it is central to the administration’s efforts to address the pandemic. The Biden administration estimated that the measure would cause 22 million people to get vaccinated and prevent 250,000 hospitalizations.
Opponents of this element of the administration’s plan to corral the pandemic – several mostly-Republican-led states and a number of employer groups – immediately filed emergency appeals to the Supreme Court, which led to the justices to reconvene early to quickly hear the cases.
Reuters says the high court, which has a 6-3 conservative majority, delayed action on emergency requests in both cases that sought an immediate decision.
The COVID-19 pandemic has killed more than 800,000 Americans and weighed heavily on the general economy. Knock-on effects of the pandemic such as severe shortages of building materials and other supply-chain constraints, plus dramatic disruptions in the supply of construction labor, are eating construction profits and holding back projects.