Court halts vaccine mandate in two cases involving Kentucky

Similar cases, orders pending in other jurisdictions

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) – A federal district court granted a request Tuesday to halt the the Biden Administration’s vaccine mandate for federal contractors until the case can be fully litigated in court.

The preliminary injunction, issued in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky, stops the mandate from taking effect in Kentucky, Tennessee, and Ohio.

It is one of several pending in federal courts in different jurisdictions challenging various mandates.

For instance, a Louisiana U.S. district judge blocked a federal COVID-19 vaccine mandate for health care workers Tuesday, issuing a nationwide injunction in another setback to President Joe Biden’s effort to require wide segments of the population to be vaccinated.

Louisiana Western District U.S. Judge Terry Doughty’s decision follows an identical ruling Monday from Missouri U.S. District Judge Matthew Schelp, but Schelp’s decision only covered 10 states.

Doughty ruled on the lawsuit led by Republican Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry and joined by Kentucky and 12 other states, but Doughty added a nationwide injunction in his ruling.

In his decision, Doughty wrote the Biden Administration doesn’t have the authority to bypass Congress in issuing such a mandate.

The emergency regulation issued Nov. 4 by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services would have required staff at providers that participate in the programs to receive at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by Dec. 6 and be fully vaccinated by Jan. 4, 2022.

Earlier this month the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans blocked a broader Biden administration mandate that businesses with more than 100 workers require employees to be vaccinated by Jan. 4 or wear masks and be tested weekly. Landry was also the lead

All the cases could ultimately be bundled into one case to eventually reach the U.S. Supreme Court.

“Today, a federal court halted the Biden Administration’s vaccine mandate for federal contractors,” said Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron.  “This is a significant ruling because it gives immediate relief from the federal government’s vaccine requirement to Kentuckians who either contract with the federal government or work for a federal contractor.”

In guidance for federal contractors updated on Nov. 10, the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force clarified that covered contractor employees must be fully vaccinated no later than Jan. 18, 2022. This requirement is not affected by the block of the emergency temporary standard.

The guidance noted that people are considered fully vaccinated against COVID-19 two weeks after they have received the second dose in a two-dose series or two weeks after they have received a single-dose vaccine. In other words, federal contractor employees must have received the second doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccinations or the one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine by Jan. 4, 2022.

Some states have sued, challenging the vaccination requirement for federal contractors.

In the meantime, covered federal contractors are left working to satisfy the vaccination requirements—testing in lieu of vaccinations isn’t an option for them.

Earlier this month, Cameron joined his counterparts from the other two states in challenging the mandate as well as two sheriffs from Ohio.  The coalition argued the vaccination requirement is unconstitutional and the Biden Administration did not have the authority to issue the mandate. In the order issued Tuesday, the court agreed, stating the question presented to the court is “[c]an the president use congressionally delegated authority to manage the federal procurement of goods and services to impose vaccines on the employees of federal contractors and subcontractors? In all likelihood, the answer to that question is no.”

The Department of Labor reports federal contractors account for approximately one-fifth of the country’s entire labor force. In fiscal year 2021, the federal government awarded $9.3 billion across 32,465 contracts for work done in Kentucky.

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