A federal appeals court on Wednesday revived the Biden Administration’s COVID vaccine mandate for healthcare workers in 26 states — requiring millions of workers employed by facilities that receive federal funding to get vaccinated.
A three-judge panel in the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Louisana ruled the lower court only had the authority to block the mandate in the 14 states that had sued, but could not impose a nationwide injunction including the states that didn’t.
The mandate requires healthcare facilities that receive funding from the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) have their staff vaccinated by Dec. 6 — but the mandate was blocked before the deadline nationwide.
The question posed before the Appellate Court was whether one district court should make a binding judgment for the entire country.
“At times, we have answered the question affirmatively,” the court said. But “the district court here gave little justification for issuing an injunction outside the 14 States that brought this suit.”
The Appellate Court said it was not in a position to make “definitive pronouncements about the outcome of this appeal” and limited its ruling to the scope of the injunction.
The mandate remains blocked in 10 states due to a Nov. 29 ruling from a federal judge in St. Louis, Missouri, and 14 states involved in the case reviewed by the 5th circuit.
The 14 states that joined the lawsuit in the 5th circuit include Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah and West Virginia.
The Biden administration argued the mandate would save thousands of lives every month amid winter and the arrival of the mild Omicron COVID variant, but the earlier 5th Circuit ruling said the administration did not make a strong showing it had the authority to impose the rule.
On Dec. 14, numerous healthcare facilities across the nation dropped their vaccine mandates for healthcare workers. The Cleveland Clinic, HCA Healthcare and Intermountain Healthcare, among others, said they will no longer require employees to be vaccinated until the courts decide whether the federal mandate is allowed to stand.