Nov. 13 (UPI) — A federal appeals court has extended a hold on enforcement of the Biden administration’s vaccine-or-test mandate for private businesses with 100 employees or more.
A three-judge panel from the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday granted the motion from petitioners — which included some employers, states, religious groups and individuals — to stay the mandate’s enforcement pending judicial review.
The rule was initially set to go into effect last week, but the court ruling blocks enforcement.
The Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued the COVID-19 Vaccination and Testing Emergency Temporary Standard, published in the federal register.
The mandate’s goal was “to protect unvaccinated employees of large employers (100 or more employees) from the risk of contracting COVID-19 by strongly encouraging vaccination,” the federal register states.
It contains an exception for unvaccinated employees who agree to undergo regular COVID-19 testing and wear a mask.
COVID-19 has infected nearly 47 million people in the United States and killed over 757,000, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
OSHA said the mandate was needed based on its enforcement experience during the pandemic because current standards and regulations were “not adequate to protect unvaccinated employees from the grave danger of being infected by, and suffering death or serious health consequences from, COVID-19.”
The federal agency also evaluated the vaccine mandate’s feasibility and found that it was both “economically and technologically feasible.”
However, Justice Kurt Englehardt wrote in the decision Friday that “a stay is firmly in the public interest.”
“From economic uncertainty to workplace strife, the mere specter of the mandate has contributed to untold economic upheaval in recent months,” Englehardt continued.
Under the court’s under, OSHA can “take no steps to implement or enforce the mandate until further court order.”
Englehardt was nominated to the court in 2017 by then-President Donald Trump. Another judge on the panel, Judge Kyle Duncan was also nominated to the court in 2017 by Trump. The third judge on the panel, Judge Edith Jones was nominated to the court in 1984 by then-President Ronald Reagan.
The Biden administration told the court earlier this week that OSHA had acted within its authority and a stay “would likely cost dozens or even hundred of lives per day, in addition to large numbers of hospitalizations, other serious health effects, and tremendous costs.”