Judge blocks vaccine mandate for health care workers

A federal judge in Louisiana on Tuesday issued a ruling blocking the Biden administration’s mandate requiring millions of health care workers nationwide be vaccinated against Covid-19.

A suit challenging the mandate was led on behalf of multiple states by Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry, a Republican, and U.S. Judge Terry Doughty granted the states’ request for a preliminary injunction.

Doughty said in his opinion that he extended the injunction beyond those states and to the entire U.S. because “there are unvaccinated healthcare workers in other states who also need protection.”

States joining Louisiana in its suit, filed Nov. 15, included Montana, Arizona, Alabama, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Mississippi, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah and West Virginia.

In Montana, Gov. Greg Gianforte hailed the temporary halt.

“Hundreds of Montanans at risk of losing their livelihoods from the president’s unlawful overreach can now breathe a sigh of relief. Not only is the president’s mandate unconstitutional, but it would devastate Montana health care providers already struggling with a long-standing worker shortage,” Gianforte said in a press release. “Discrimination based on vaccination status is illegal in Montana, and we’ll continue to work to protect the rights of Montanans.”

Doughty, an appointee of former President Donald Trump, said that “this Court believes the balance of equities and the public interest favors the issuance of a preliminary injunction.”

“The public interest is served by maintaining the constitutional structure and maintaining the liberty of individuals who do not want to take the COVID-19 vaccine,” he wrote. “This interest outweighs Government Defendants’ interests. “

At issue is President Joe Biden’s campaign to ensure that workers throughout the country are vaccinated against COVID-19.

Under Biden’s order, many private-sector employees were required to get vaccinated or undergo weekly tests, while some 17 million health care providers at facilities participating in the federal Medicare and Medicaid health insurance programs must be vaccinated — with no option to choose weekly testing instead.

Under the requirement, health care workers were to be fully vaccinated by Jan. 4, 2022.

Hospitals across Montana were planning to implement Covid vaccine requirements beginning in December, including Logan Health in Kalispell. A Logan Health spokesperson told the Daily Inter Lake on Tuesday evening that hospital officials were evaluating their plan following news of the ruling.

According to Montana Attorney General Knudsen, with the CMS mandate blocked in Montana until the case is decided, “medical facilities have no reason to threaten their employees if they don’t get the vaccine.”

Becker’s Hospital Review reported earlier this month that a federal study found 30 percent of health care workers in 2,000 hospitals across the U.S. remained unvaccinated as of Sept. 15.

“I applaud Judge Doughty for recognizing that Louisiana is likely to succeed on the merits and for delivering yet another victory for the medical freedom of Americans,” Landry said in a statement. “While Joe Biden villainizes our healthcare heroes with his ‘jab or job’ edicts, I will continue to stand up to the President’s bully tactics and fight for liberty.”

The Louisiana ruling followed another on Monday by a federal judge in Missouri that blocked enforcement of the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate for millions in 10 states.

That ruling by U.S. District Judge Matthew Schelp, another Trump appointee, affected the states involved in that lawsuit: Missouri, Iowa, Kansas, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Arkansas, Wyoming and Alaska.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Monday that the administration is “obviously going to abide by the law and fight any efforts in courts or otherwise” to prevent health care facilities from protecting their work forces.


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