The Biden administration was barred on Tuesday from executing two warrants requiring millions of American workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19, a key part of its strategy to control the spread of the coronavirus.
U.S. District Judge Terry Doughty in Monroe, Louisiana has temporarily blocked the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) from enforcing their mandate to vaccinate healthcare workers until the court can resolve the issues legal.
Doughty’s ruling applied nationally, except in 10 states where the CMS was already barred from enforcing the rule due to a prior order from a federal judge in St. Louis.
Doughty said the CMS does not have the authority to issue a vaccination mandate that would require more than 2 million unvaccinated healthcare workers to be vaccinated against the coronavirus.
“There is no question that mandating a vaccine for 10.3 million healthcare workers is something that should be done by Congress, not by a government agency,” Doughty wrote.
Separately, U.S. District Judge Gregory Van Tatenhove in Frankfort, Kentucky, has blocked the administration from enforcing regulations that require new government contracts to include clauses requiring contractors’ employees to be vaccinated.
The contractor’s decision applied in all three states that filed the lawsuit, Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee, one of at least 13 nationwide legal challenges against the settlement. It appears to be the first decision against the contractor’s vaccine mandate.
The White House declined to comment.
The legal setbacks to President Joe Biden’s vaccine policy come from the fact that the Omicron variant of the coronavirus could trigger a new wave of infections and reduce travel and economic activity across the world.
Biden unveiled a regulation in September to increase the adult vaccination rate in the United States beyond the current 71% in order to fight the pandemic, which has killed more than 750,000 Americans and weighed on the economy.
Attorneys general from Republican states, conservative groups and professional organizations have taken legal action to stop the regulations.
Tuesday’s rulings add to a string of legal losses for the Biden administration over its COVID-19 policies.
The most sweeping regulation, a vaccine or workplace testing mandate for companies with 100 or more employees, was temporarily blocked by a federal appeals court in early November.
In August, the United States Supreme Court ended the administration’s federal moratorium on residential evictions linked to the pandemic.
(Reporting by Tom Hals in Wilmington, Delaware; Additional reporting by Nandita Bose in Washington; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Peter Cooney)