The U.S. Supreme Court declined to block a vaccine mandate for health workers in the state of Maine on Tuesday, sending a potential green light to state mandates across the country.
Justice Stephen Breyer, who handles emergency requests from Maine for the court, was responsible for the denial, which he said came “without prejudice.”
The challenge came from a group of Maine health workers who argued Democratic Maine Gov. Janet Mills’ vaccine mandate was illegal. With the SCOTUS denial, the mandate for employees at hospitals and nursing homes will take effect next week, according to The Hill.
Several states have become battlegrounds over enforcement of vaccine mandates in recent months, with courts in Florida, New York, and elsewhere blocking various efforts to impose mandates.
Patty Wright, a reporter with Maine Public Radio, during an episode of ‘National Public Radio’s’ (NPR’s) ‘All Things Considered’ said, “Ambulance crews across the state face a staffing crisis, as some paramedics and EMT’s are quitting over the mandate.
Waldoboro, Maine, town manager Julie Keizer said, “The mandate might cripple emergency services that were thinly stretched throughout the pandemic.” Deputy Fire Chief Cody Fenderson of Fort Fairfield said, “Eight workers quit after Mills issued the mandate, according to NPR.
ABC News reported, “In Lewiston, Central Maine Medical Center has begun to curb the number of hospital admissions due to an ‘acute shortage’ of nurses.” Dozens of health care workers have also quit but most workers followed the mandate, according to ABC News.
In September, President Joe Biden imposed a federal vaccine mandate requiring all companies with more than 100 employees to ensure their workers are either vaccinated or take a weekly COVID-19 test. The mandate would affect roughly 100 million Americans, and many groups plan to challenge the policy as soon as it goes into effect.
After Biden imposed the federal vaccine mandate, he directed the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA), a tiny agency that polices workplace safety for labor, to write rules requiring private companies with more than 100 employees to vaccinate their staff against COVID-19 or test those who aren’t at least once a week. OSHA told CNBC it delivered its proposal to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) on Tuesday night. The rule is expected to take effect soon after OMB complete its review.
Because it’s being written under emergency procedures, OSHA can shortcut some of the usual regulatory bureaucracy, like a public comment period that would normally delay it by several months.
OSHA will likely give companies time to comply with the new mandate before broad enforcement begins, according to Debbie Berkowitz, who served as a chief of staff and senior policy advisor at OSHA during the Obama administration.
“We’re going to protect vaccinated workers from unvaccinated co-workers,” Biden said when introducing the mandate. “We’ll reduce the spread of COVID-19 by increasing the share of the workforce that’s vaccinated in business all across America.”
The Governor of South Dakota, Republican Kristi Noem vowed to sue the federal government the day Biden announced the policy, and the state of Arizona has already filed a lawsuit as well. Just days later, 24 state attorneys general signed a public letter vowing to take legal action if Biden’s mandate takes effect.
“Your plan is disastrous and counterproductive,’ the group wrote in the letter. “If your administration does not alter its course, the undersigned state Attorneys General will seek every available legal option to hold you accountable and uphold the rule of law.”
The Supreme Court of the United States has yet to weigh in on Biden’s federal mandate.