Biden administration scraps vaccine or workplace test rule

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WASHINGTON — The Biden administration announced on Tuesday that it would withdraw an emergency mandate that would have required employees of large corporations to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or regularly tested for the virus.

decision from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which takes effect Wednesday, follows a U.S. Supreme Court ruling earlier this month that prevented the rule from taking effect.

The Biden Administration first announced last year that it would try to curb the rise in coronavirus infections by implementing tougher workplace standards.

OSHA’s emergency mandate was one of several workplace mandates and would have required businesses with 100 or more employees to ensure their workers had received the COVID-19 vaccine or were tested regularly and wore a mask during working hours.

Fines for violation of the mandate could have ranged from a few thousand dollars for a first offense to $136,000 for violations deemed “intentional”.

Republican attorneys general from 27 states disputed the OSHA requirement, arguing that Congress did not give the agency authority to require vaccinations.

States challenging the workplace mandate included Ohio, Tennessee, Idaho, Kansas, Missouri, Montana, Arizona, New Hampshire, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Nebraska and Louisiana.

A Supreme Court majority agreed with this argument earlier this month, with Justices Neil Gorsuch, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito writing that “The answer is clear: under the law as it stands today, that power belongs to the states and Congress, not at OSHA”.

The court’s three liberal justices, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, dissented, saying COVID-19 “is a threat in workplaces” and OSHA’s temporary emergency standard s ‘is central to the agency’s mission: to ‘protect employees’ from ‘serious danger’ that arises from ‘new hazards’ or exposure to harmful agents.”

President Joe Biden said in a statement following the ruling that he would continue to advocate for businesses and states to implement COVID-19 safety standards.

“The Court has ruled that my administration cannot use the authority granted to it by Congress to demand this action, but that does not preclude me from using my voice as president to advocate with employers for let them do what it takes to protect the health and economy of Americans,” he said.

OSHA said Tuesday that while it would withdraw the temporary emergency standard, it would continue to “prioritize its resources to focus on finalizing a permanent COVID-19 healthcare standard.”

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