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Biden’s new vaccine mandate set to face legal hurdles



The Biden administration is all set for another major clash between federal and state rule over its sweeping new vaccine requirements that have Republican governors threatening lawsuits. But the President’s response is: “Have at it.”

While many details about the rules remain unknown, Biden appears to be on firm legal ground to issue the directive in the name of protecting employee safety, as per expert analyses.

The expansive rules mandate that all employers with more than 100 workers require them to be vaccinated or test for the virus weekly, affecting about nearly 100 million Americans. And the roughly 17 million workers at health facilities that receive federal Medicare or Medicaid also will have to be fully vaccinated.

Biden is also requiring vaccination for employees of the executive branch and contractors who do business with the federal government — with no option to test out. That covers several million more workers.

Biden is putting enforcement in the hands of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which is drafting a rule “over the coming weeks,” Jeffrey Zients, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, said Friday. He warned that “if a workplace refuses to follow the standard, the OSHA fines could be quite significant.”

The White House is gearing up for legal challenges and believes that even if some of the mandates are tossed out, millions of Americans will get a shot because of the new requirements — saving lives and preventing the spread of the virus.

The new federal vaccine requirement has created another worry for large businesses: whether it will now be even harder to retain workers or find new ones.

But even those who favor Biden’s decision as a way to stop the coronavirus from spreading further are afraid that vaccination-averse workers will quit, or job seekers won’t apply for their openings. Some workers may also switch to smaller companies where shots in the arm aren’t required.

Angela B. Cornell, a clinical professor at Cornell Law School who focuses on labor law, said the mandates are a positive step for businesses. “This shift will make it a lot easier for employers to push those individuals who have been on the fence or who have been opposed,” she said.

Companies won’t have to worry about being sued, since it’s a government mandate and not one from the employer, she said.

More than 177 million Americans are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, but confirmed cases of the virus have shot up in recent weeks. They’ve now reached an average of about 140,000 cases per day.

On average, about 1,000 Americans die from the virus daily, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 650,000 Americans have died from the virus since January of 2020, according to Johns Hopkins University.

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