A federal appeals court issued a ruling on Saturday freezing President Joe Biden’s mandate on private companies to implement his COVID-19 vaccine requirement, but the White House said Monday that the affected companies should continue working toward compliance anyway.
“People should not wait,” White House Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said during Monday’s daily press briefing. “They should continue to move forward and make sure they’re getting their workplace vaccinated.”
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit on Saturday froze the requirements pending review. The court wrote that “the petitions give cause to believe there are grave statutory and constitutional issues with the Mandate.”
The pause went into effect on Friday and would require businesses with 100 or more employees to have all of them fully vaccinated by Jan. 4 or have them pass a weekly negative COVID-19 test to continue working.
Unvaccinated employees must also wear masks while on the job starting Dec. 5.
A federal judge on Monday denied a request to block the mandate for federal employees.
Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry said Saturday’s ruling stops President Joe Biden “from moving forward with his unlawful overreach.”
“The president will not impose medical procedures on the American people without the checks and balances afforded by the Constitution,” said a statement from Landry, a Republican.
The U.S. Labor Department’s top legal adviser, Solicitor of Labor Seema Nanda, said the department is “confident in its legal authority to issue the emergency temporary standard on vaccination and testing.”
OSHA has the authority “to act quickly in an emergency where the agency finds that workers are subjected to a grave danger and a new standard is necessary to protect them,” she said.
A spokesman for the Justice Department, Anthony Coley, said in a statement: “The OSHA emergency temporary standard is a critical tool to keep America’s workplaces safe as we fight our way out of this pandemic. The Justice Department will vigorously defend this rule in court.”
Such circuit decisions normally apply to states within a district — Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas, in this case — but Landry said the language employed by the judges gave the decision a national scope.
“This is a great victory for the American people out there. Never before has the federal government tried in a such a forceful way to get between the choices of an American citizen and their doctor. To me that’s the heart of the entire issue,” he said.
At least 27 states filed lawsuits challenging the rule in several circuits, some of which were made more conservative by the judicial appointments of President Donald Trump.
The Biden administration has been encouraging widespread vaccinations as the quickest way to end the pandemic that has claimed more than 750,000 lives in the United States.
The administration says it is confident that the requirement, which includes penalties of nearly $14,000 per violation, will withstand legal challenges in part because its safety rules preempt state laws.
The 5th Circuit, based in New Orleans, said it was delaying the federal vaccine requirement because of potential “grave statutory and constitutional issues” raised by the plaintiffs. The government must provide an expedited reply to the motion for a permanent injunction Monday, followed by petitioners’ reply on Tuesday.
The Associated Press contributed.