The Biden administration filed a motion overnight Tuesday asking a federal appeals court to lift a pause on its vaccine-or-test mandate for private businesses, arguing that delaying its implementation could lead to increased hospitalizations and lives lost.
"Simply put, delaying the Standard would likely cost many lives per day, in addition to large numbers of hospitalizations, other serious health effects, and tremendous expenses," the Biden administration wrote in its filing to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. "That is a confluence of harms of the highest order."
The policy from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), unveiled earlier this month, requires businesses with more than 100 employees to mandate COVID-19 vaccines for their workforce or submit to weekly testing and stringent masking requirements. The rules were set to go into effect on Jan. 4.
OSHA estimates that the mandate would, at a minimum, "save over 6,500 worker lives and prevent over 250,000 hospitalizations over the course of the next six months."
The mandate "reflects OSHA’s judgment that these measures are necessary to mitigate Covid-19 transmission in the workplace, and the grievous harms the virus inflicts on workers," the administration wrote in the filing.
The administration also asked that if the court would not fully lift the ban, that it could at least modify the pause to allow the mask and test rules to move forward as court challenges to the mandate play out.
"Although vaccination is the most effective means of mitigating the grave danger of COVID-19 in the workplace, masking and testing for unvaccinated employees is a reasonably effective alternative," the administration wrote in the filing.
The New Orleans-based Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals earlier this month temporarily blocked the mandate from going into effect, citing "grave statutory and constitutional issues with the Mandate," and extended the pause on the rule a week later.
The dozens of lawsuits against the mandate, largely filed by Republican-led states, were consolidated into one case before the Cincinnati-based Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. Many of the challenges argue that the rule represents a massive overreach by the federal government.
On the other hand, some challenges from labor unions argue that the rules don't go far enough, asking for the courts to expand protections to smaller businesses in order to protect more workers.
Regardless of the outcome, many legal experts expect that the case will end up before the Supreme Court.