South Carolina AG, others appeal ruling on vaccine mandate; OSHA says no citations before Jan. 10

State - Regional

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WBTW/AP) — South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson and his counterparts from 26 other states filed an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court Saturday morning in an effort to block the Biden administration’s OSHA vaccine mandate.

The filing, announced by Wilson’s office Saturday morning, comes after a panel of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, in a split 2-1 decision, lifted a stay against the mandate Friday evening. Lifting that stay would allow the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to require people who work at companies with 100 or more employees to get vaccinated.

“The fight against the Biden mandate continues, even to filing for a stay in the early hours of this morning,” Wilson said. “The rule of law will prevail and the President’s grasp for power halted.”

A long list of companies and other organizations joined in the appeal, which was filed just before 1 a.m. Saturday, Wilson’s office said in a news release.

“This case does not present the question whether vaccines or vaccine mandates are wise or desirable,” the filing says. “Instead, it presents the narrow questions whether OSHA had authority to issue the Mandate, and whether it lawfully exercised whatever authority it had. After all, ‘our system does not permit agencies to act unlawfully,’ even during a pandemic and ‘even in pursuit of desirable ends.’” 

Meanwhile, according to the Associated Press, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration said Saturday that it would not issue citations tied to the mandate before Jan. 10, so that companies have time to adjust to and implement the requirements.

The federal agency separately said there would be no citations of companies regarding its testing requirements before Feb. 9.

The announcement came after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth District in Cincinnati decided on Friday that the mandate for large employers could go forward, reversing a previous court decision made after 27 Republican-led states, conservative groups, business associations and some individual companies challenged the mandate.

OSHA said in a statement that it would not issue citations before the listed dates “so long as an employer is exercising reasonable, good faith efforts to come into compliance with the standard.”

The mandate was previously slated to take effect Jan. 4.

The Biden administration’s vaccine requirement applies to companies with 100 or more employees and covers about 84 million U.S. workers. Employees who are not fully vaccinated have to wear face masks and be subject to weekly COVID-19 tests. There are exceptions, including for those who work outdoors or only at home.

Administration officials estimate that the mandate will save 6,500 lives and prevent 250,000 hospitalizations over six months.

The appeal by Wilson and others is one of three Biden administration vaccine mandates being challenged in court:

One involves the mandate for healthcare workers. The Fifth Circuit has blocked that mandate in states that have sued to stop the mandate from being enforced. That stay is still in place in the plaintiff states, including South Carolina. The Biden administration has asked the Supreme Court to lift or stay that injunction.

Another involved a federal contractor mandate. A District Court has ordered a temporary injunction to block that mandate nationwide, which is still in effect. The Biden administration may appeal that to the Supreme Court as well. Otherwise, that case will be argued into the new year.

You can read the filing here.

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