The US Supreme Court on Wednesday agreed to
begin proceedings over the Joe Biden administration’s nationwide
vaccine-or-testing COVID-19 mandate for large businesses and a separate vaccine
requirement for healthcare workers. The court will hear oral arguments on
January 7 in the two cases, with rulings likely to follow in short order, reported Reuters.

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The court, which has a 6-3 conservative
majority, delayed action on emergency requests in both cases that sought an
immediate decision. In the US, vaccine-or-testing is mandatory at the workplace,
while the healthcare worker mandate is blocked in half the 50 US states.

The government’s decision was challenged in
the high court as the new, highly transmissible omicron variant spreads
rapidly, with public health officials bracing for a “tidal wave” of
cases in the United States.

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On Friday, an appeals court allowed the
workplace mandate, which covers 80 million American workers, to go into effect,
prompting businesses, states and other groups challenging the policy to ask the
Supreme Court to block it.

The other case concerns whether the
administration can require healthcare workers at facilities that treat
federally funded Medicare and Medicaid patients to receive shots while
litigation continues.

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The Joe Biden administration asked the
court to allow the policy to go into effect in 24 states in which it was
blocked by lower courts. It is also blocked in Texas in a separate case, not
before the justices.

President Biden in September introduced
regulations to increase the adult vaccination rate as a way of fighting the
pandemic, which has killed more than 800,000 Americans and wreaked havoc on the

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The challengers are 27 Republican-led
states, various individual businesses and business groups, and two groups of
religious entities, including the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in
Louisville, Kentucky. The National Federation of Independent Business, a trade
group, that represents small businesses, is also among the challengers.

Last week the sixth US Circuit Court of
Appeals in Cincinnati lifted a November injunction that had blocked the
workplace rule from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA),
which applies to businesses with at least 100 workers.

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The healthcare worker rule required more
than 2 million unvaccinated healthcare workers to receive a first vaccine dose
by December 6.