Biden’s Vaccine Mandates Face Hurdles
By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
WASHINGTON (Worthy News) – The future of U.S. President Joe Biden’s COVID vaccine and testing mandates remained uncertain Sunday after his top health official admitted that assertions about COVID-19 suffering children were exaggerated.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Rochelle Walenksy countered claims by U.S Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, a liberal, that 100,000 children were hospitalized or seriously ill with COVID-19.
Walensky told Fox News that the number of pediatric hospitalizations was actually 3,500 instead of 100,000.
Asked if she felt a responsibility to correct a Supreme Court justice, Dr. Walensky did not directly answer. She said her job is to provide “guidance and recommendations,” including vaccinations for children older than 5 years old.
Justice Sotomayor made her claim about 100,000 children suffering from COVID during Friday’s oral arguments in a case on determining whether the Biden administration can deploy workplace vaccine mandates.
“We have hospitals that are almost at full capacity with people severely ill on ventilators,” said Justice Sotomayor, according to the high court’s transcript. “We have over 100,000 children, which we’ve never had before, in serious condition and many on ventilators.”
CHILDREN SUFFER LESS
The CDC admission that children were far less likely to suffer from COVID-19 seriously due to being welcomed by parents, business lobbies, religious groups, and states with Republican leaders.
They led legal challenges against the mandates, arguing the agencies implementing them are overreaching their authority.
Additionally, critics questioned Biden’s claim that COVID is a “pandemic of the unvaccinated,” citing the fast spread of variants such as Omicron among unvaccinated and vaccinated citizens.
The conservative-controlled U.S. Supreme Court was under pressure Monday to quickly determine whether or not to halt federal vaccine and testing mandates.
They include a mandate for health care workers put enforced by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Additionally, there is a mandate for private employers with at least 100 workers enforced by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
Supreme Court Justices Elena Kagan, Stephen Breyer, and Sonia Sotomayor seemed to support mandates, especially regarding health care workers.
HOSPITALS ARE OVERFLOWING?
“There are 750,000 people who got this yesterday. Hospitals are full to overflowing. There is a problem. It seems to me that every minute these things are not in effect, thousands more people are getting this disease,” Breyer said Friday.
But questions from justices who likely have the swing votes in these cases -— Chief Justice John Roberts and justices Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett suggested they regarded the OSHA mandates as overly broad.
Their questions indicated that the judges believed that the agency’s power in issuing the mandate needs specific authorization from the U.S. Congress or the states.
“I understand your idea that agencies are more expert than Congress. I understand the idea that they can move more quickly than Congress. But this is something that the federal government has never done before,” Roberts stressed on Friday. He added that it seemed the OSHA mandate was more of a broad attempt to vaccinate all Americans.
Court observers said the justices could still endorse one mandate while doing away with the other, putting pressure on the Biden administration to change COVID policies.
With a Monday deadline looming for the OSHA mandate, experts said there’s not a lot of time for businesses to react—and because of that, the court may issue a stay.
However, several large employers have already moved ahead with vaccine mandates and masking protocols, citing the legal uncertainty and the tight time frame.
If the OSHA rule is to go into effect starting Monday, January 10, employers must show they are making “good faith” measures and mandate masks among unvaccinated workers.
OSHA reportedly estimated that 40 percent of employers would adopt the masking policy. Routine testing would go into effect on February 9.
The CMS rule generally requires that health care workers at CMS-covered facilities be vaccinated.
Starting January 27, facilities need to work toward having at least 80 percent of their workforce fully vaccinated.
CMS-covered health care providers would need to be 100 percent compliant with the rule by March 28 to avoid any enforcement action.
Companies that are not in compliance face fines of up to $13,653 for a severe violation or $136,532 for a willful violation.
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