A three-judge panel of the Louisiana-based U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday extended its stay of the Biden administration's workplace vaccine rule, saying the groups challenging the requirement "show a great likelihood of success on the merits." The emergency workplace safety rule would require companies with 100 or more employees to ensure that their workers either be vaccinated against COVID-19 or masked and tested weekly, starting in January.
"A stay is firmly in the public interest," wrote Judge Kurt Engelhardt, an appointee of former President Donald Trump. "From economic uncertainty to workplace strife, the mere specter of the Mandate has contributed to untold economic upheaval in recent months." He said the rule, from the Labor Department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), "grossly exceeds OSHA's statutory authority," imposes an undue financial burden on companies, and may violate the Commerce Clause. His opinion was joined by Judges Stuart Kyle Duncan, also a Trump appointee, and Edith Jones, put on the court by former President Ronald Reagan.
The Biden administration told the court earlier this week it believes the rule is well within OSHA's authority and a stay "would likely cost dozens or even hundreds of lives per day." The administration will likely request a hearing by the full 5th Circuit appellate court, considered the most conservative in the U.S., Politico reports, but the final say may come down to a different court. A lottery scheduled for next week will determine which appeals court will hear the multiple legal challenges to the rule.