After the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals over the weekend said it would continue to temporarily block a Biden administration mandate requiring all private businesses with 100 or more workers to require COVID-19 vaccines or weekly testing, Surgeon General Vivek Murthy said he believes such a rule would “be a setback.”
“I think it would be a setback for public health,” Murthy told Fox News on Sunday. “What we know very clearly is that when people get vaccinated—and the more people who get vaccinated the quicker we’re able to bring this pandemic to an end—the more lives that we can ultimately save.”
A number of studies have shown that fully vaccinated individuals can spread COVID-19 to other fully vaccinated individuals. Currently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s data shows the United States has reported about 47 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and 759,000 deaths since the pandemic started 20 months ago.
This month, meanwhile, the CDC released a document saying that it has no record of people who are naturally immune transmitting the virus that causes COVID-19, prompting concerns from independent health experts that the federal health agency has, so far, released little data on the virus.
“In any community sometimes our decisions do affect other people … When it comes to getting vaccinated, we know the people who are unvaccinated are at high risk of getting sick and spreading it to others,” Murthy said.
Federal health officials such as Murthy have said they believe COVID-19 vaccines can prevent serious disease, hospitalizations, death. Earlier this month, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) unveiled its rule for private businesses, sparking numerous lawsuits from dozens of states, individuals, businesses, and organizations.
When the rule was announced, President Joe Biden argued that while he didn’t want to impose such a mandate, it’s the best way—according to him—to lift the country out of the pandemic.
Biden also issued rules for federal workers, federal contractors, Department of Defense staff, and healthcare workers at facilities that receive Medicare or Medicaid funding. Unlike the rule for private businesses, those mandates do not allow employees to opt-out via weekly testing; they instead have to seek a religious or medical exemption.
In a ruling handed down on Nov. 12, the Fifth Court of Appeals rejected a challenge by the Biden administration to continue blocking the vaccine mandate for private workers.
“The mandate is staggeringly overbroad,” the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans said in a scathing opinion, ordering OSHA to “take no steps to implement or enforce the Mandate until further court order.”
The OSHA rule vaccine mandate “raises serious constitutional concerns” and “likely exceeds the federal government’s authority,” according to the ruling.