The vaccine mandate that the court will allow to be enforced nationwide covers virtually all health care workers in the country. It applies to health care providers that receive federal Medicare or Medicaid funding, potentially affecting 76,000 health care facilities as well as home health care providers. The rule has medical and religious exemptions.
Decisions by federal appeals courts in New Orleans and St Louis had blocked the mandate in about half the states. The administration already was taking steps to enforce it elsewhere.
In the healthcare case, only justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito noted their dissents. “The challenges posed by a global pandemic do not allow a federal agency to exercise power that Congress has not conferred upon it. At the same time, such unprecedented circumstances provide no grounds for limiting the exercise of authorities the agency has long been recognised to have,” the justices wrote in an unsigned opinion, saying the “latter principle governs” in the healthcare cases.
More than 208 million Americans, 62.7 per cent of the population, are fully vaccinated, and more than a third of those have received booster shots, according to the federal Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. All nine justices have gotten booster shots.
The justices heard arguments on the challenges last week. Their questions then hinted at the split verdict that they issued Thursday.