WASHINGTON (CBSNewYork/AP) -- The Supreme Court has stopped the Biden administration from enforcing a requirement that employees at large businesses be vaccinated against COVID-19 or undergo weekly testing and wear a mask on the job.
At the same time, the court is allowing the administration to proceed with a vaccine mandate for most health care workers in the U.S.
The court's orders Thursday during a spike in coronavirus cases was a mixed bag for the administration's efforts to boost the vaccination rate among Americans.
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The court's conservative majority concluded the administration overstepped its authority by seeking to impose the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's vaccine-or-test rule on U.S. businesses with at least 100 employees, calling it a "significant encroachment" into the lives and health of a vast number of American employees. More than 80 million people would have been affected.
"OSHA has never before imposed such a mandate. Nor has Congress. Indeed, although Congress has enacted significant legislation addressing the COVID-19 pandemic, it has declined to enact any measure similar to what OSHA has promulgated here," the conservatives wrote in an unsigned opinion.
In dissent, the court's three liberals argued that it was the court that was overreaching by substituting its judgments for health experts. "Acting outside of its competence and without legal basis, the Court displaces the judgments of the Government officials given the responsibility to respond to workplace health emergencies," Justices Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor wrote in a joint dissent.
As CBS2's Andrea Grymes reports, the National Federation of Independent Business was the lead plaintiff.
"We were thrilled with the result the Supreme Court gave here," said Karen Harned, with the National Federation of Independent Business. "Right now, we've got 49% of business owners across the country who are trying to find qualified workers. This mandate would've made that problem even worse."
"Business owners are going to breathe a sigh of relief because they've been put in the middle of this whole mess and they have been made the regulatory body to this point," said business management expert Carl Gould.
In a statement, President Joe Biden said he's disappointed.
"The Supreme Court's decision on the OSHA mandate essentially means that in this pandemic, it is up to individual employers to determine whether their workplaces will be safe for employees and whether their businesses will be safe for consumers," White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said.
The White House hopes employers choose to impose the mandate on their own or that local governments take it up.
In New York City, for example, by order of the health commissioner, all businesses must require employees be vaccinated. A spokesperson for Mayor Eric Adams says this latest Supreme Court ruling does not change that.
The vaccine mandate that the court will allow to be enforced nationwide covers virtually all health care workers in the country.
More than 208 million Americans, 62.7% of the population, are fully vaccinated, and more than a third of those have received booster shots, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. All nine justices have gotten booster shots.
(© Copyright 2022 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)
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