MAINE, USA — The nation’s highest court made significant rulings regarding vaccine mandates on Thursday.
The U.S. Supreme Court voted 6-3 to block a vaccine or regular test requirement for large businesses. The court also voted 5-4 to uphold a vaccine mandate for most health care workers in the country.
The court’s conservative majority concluded the administration overstepped its authority by seeking to impose the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s vaccine-or-test rule on U.S. businesses with at least 100 employees. More than 80 million people would have been affected, and OSHA had estimated that the rule would save 6,500 lives and prevent 250,000 hospitalizations over six months.
“OSHA has never before imposed such a mandate. Nor has Congress. Indeed, although Congress has enacted significant legislation addressing the COVID pandemic, it has declined to enact any measure similar to what OSHA has promulgated here,” the conservative justices wrote in an unsigned opinion.
The mandate for certain health care workers applies to providers that receive federal Medicare or Medicaid funding. It affects 10.4 million workers at 76,000 health care facilities and home health care providers. The rule has medical and religious exemptions.
Leaders in Maine are now responding to these rulings.
Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, shared the following statement with NEWS CENTER Maine:
“The same court that is poised to take away a woman’s right to choose today says a mandate imposed on peoples’ health decisions is too far-reaching. It’s estimated that President Biden’s vaccine and testing mandate would prevent 250,000 hospitalizations. In a time when hospitalizations and case rates have never been higher, it’s unconscionable the Supreme Court would strike down something that could save lives and help us get through this surge. This is yet another glaring example of why we must expand the court.”
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, is in support of the Supreme Court’s rulings, writing the following statement to NEWS CENTER Maine:
“While I strongly believe in the efficacy of the COVID vaccines in helping to prevent hospitalizations and deaths, the federal government should not be dictating vaccine mandates. The Biden administration’s mandate was unlikely to give unvaccinated Americans more confidence in the shot. The best and most trusted advisors in this area are doctors and other health care providers. In addition, had the mandate been allowed to go into effect, this overly broad requirement affecting more than 80 million Americans threatened to exacerbate workforce shortages and further disrupt the supply chain.”
A spokesperson for Gov. Janet Mills released the following statement Friday:
"COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective, and the Governor is grateful that Maine is the third most fully vaccinated state in the nation. The Governor joins health care professionals across Maine in strongly urging all eligible Maine people to get vaccinated to protect their health and potentially save their lives. As she has previously said, she is not considering additional state requirements and she calls on all people in positions of leadership to join her in urging folks to step up and get vaccinated."
Local politicians are also weighing in. State Rep. Kathleen Dillingham, R-Oxford, wrote:
“Maine House Republicans applaud today’s decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to ensure OSHA does not exceed its authority. In the words of the majority:
‘The Secretary has ordered 84 million Americans to either obtain a COVID vaccine or undergo weekly medical testing at their own expense. This is no ‘everyday exercise of federal power.’ In re MCP No. 165, 20 F. 4th, at 272 (Sutton, C. J., dissenting). It is instead a significant encroachment into the lives-and health-of a vast number of employees.’
We urge the Mills Administration to carefully review this decision and tread carefully in the coming days when considering additional mandates that do not stop the spread of COVID and further jeopardize the ability of our state to safely recover and ultimately resume everyday life.”
NEWS CENTER Maine has reached out to Maine’s entire congressional delegation for comment on these rulings.
This story will be updated.