The Biden administration is ready to defend a Department of Labor COVID-19 vaccine-or-test mandate for private businesses after an appeals court temporarily blocked it, U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy said in an interview on Nov. 7.
A U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit panel ruled on Nov. 6 that there is “cause to believe there are grave statutory and constitutional issues with the mandate,” and stayed it pending further action from the court. The ruling came in a case brought by several businesses, individuals, and organizations, as well as Texas, Mississippi, Utah, and other states.
The Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) earlier this week unveiled an emergency temporary standard that requires private businesses with 100 or more employees to require proof of COVID-19 vaccination from workers and compel those that don’t produce it to submit to weekly testing.
The rule, set to be enforced starting Jan. 4, faces numerous lawsuits. It was published in the federal register about two months after President Joe Biden announced sweeping mandates for tens of millions of American workers in the public and private sector.
In response to a question on ABC’s “This Week” on Nov. 7, Murthy said that the “president and the administration wouldn’t have put these requirements in place if they didn’t think they were appropriate and necessary.”
“And the administration is prepared to defend them,” according to Murthy, who, like Biden, said that the sweeping mandates are necessary to boost COVID-19 vaccination rates, adding that they would, in turn, allow the United States to extricate itself from the pandemic.
“Let’s step back a moment and look at why these are so important,” Murthy said. “Throughout our history, we have seen that we have used vaccine requirements to protect the population.”
About two dozen states so far have filed lawsuits against Biden’s vaccine mandates. The Daily Wire, the news outlet fronted by Ben Shapiro, as well as the Republican National Committee also filed legal actions against the requirement, arguing that it violates the Constitution.
A number of studies, including several published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said that fully vaccinated individuals can still transmit the CCP virus to other fully vaccinated individuals, even as federal health experts have said other studies have shown that the vaccines offer protection against severe COVID-19 symptoms, hospitalization, and death.
Murthy also told ABC that companies and governments “take every measure possible to make our workplaces safer,” for the safety of employees and customers of businesses. “It’s good for people’s health, it’s good for the economy and that’s why these requirements make so much sense,” he said.
In recent weeks, however, numerous trade associations across the United States have sent letters to the Biden administration and warned about possible worker shortages or supply chain bottlenecks that would be triggered by vaccine mandates for private businesses and federal contractors. Unlike the private business mandate, federal contractors aren’t permitted to allow their employees to opt for weekly COVID-19 testing instead of vaccination.
A trucking group, the American Trucking Associations, warned last month that the vaccine requirements would “cripple” the supply chain and trigger a “workforce crisis for our industry and the communities, families, and businesses we serve.”
“The U.S. is already facing unprecedented supply chain disruptions and delays due to many factors, including significant labor shortages, production shutdowns, a shortage of raw materials, and pent-up consumer demand,” it warned.
But Murthy pushed back, claiming that “small businesses, large businesses, and workers” have told the federal government that “what’s really hurting the economy is actually COVID itself,” not mandates.
“There are times where we recognize that our decisions have a broader effect on people around us,” he said. “COVID has reminded us of that, and that’s why having these types of requirements in workplaces will be not only helpful, it’s a necessary step to accelerate our pathway out of the pandemic.”
According to recent data published by the CDC, about 46.3 million COVID-19 cases have been officially reported in the U.S. to date, with about 751,000 reported deaths. White House officials said last week that about 70 percent of Americans are fully vaccinated and 80 percent have received at least one dose.