The United States Supreme Court blocked the Biden administration from implementing a vaccine-or-test rule on large firms on Thursday, but allowed a vaccine mandate for the majority of the country's health care workers.
The high court resolved the case involving major companies with a 6-3 decision to reject the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's proposed rule, with the three liberal justices dissenting.
The nation's highest court's judges stated that the mandate exceeded the power of the Biden administration. Separately, they found that a less stringent vaccination requirement for personnel at government-funded healthcare facilities might be justified.
The regulation had been a cornerstone of U.S. President Biden's efforts to contain the outbreak by applying pressure to unvaccinated individuals. Biden urged states and corporations to enact their own safety regulations in a statement released following the ruling.
The rulings take immediate effect and will continue in effect until legal challenges to their constitutionality are determined in the justice system, and possibly by the Supreme Court.
The administration's employer requirement, unveiled in early November and initially scheduled to take effect on Jan. 4, targets approximately 84 million American workers, or almost half of the country's workforce.
It has delayed the deadline for companies to impose masking until Jan. 10. Compliance with all requirements, which the court's order now declares unenforceable, had been extended to Feb. 9.
Biden, whose approval rating has dipped in recent months, expressed dismay with the decision "to obstruct common-sense life-saving regulations for employees."
OSHA predicted in November that the policy will avert 250,000 hospitalizations as a result of 22 million additional Americans taking the vaccine.
The ruling follows another COVID-19 outbreak in the United States, this time spurred by the highly contagious Omicron strain.
According to the New York Times' monitoring, there has been a nearly 160% spike in cases, an 81% increase in hospitalizations, and a 50% increase in mortalities over the last 14 days.
The U.S. established a new record for COVID-19 hospitalizations on Monday, as medical systems struggle to cope with increasing number of infections and personnel shortages caused by workers testing positive and isolating themselves.
The administration's health care mandate applies to facilities that accept Medicare or Medicaid funding and requires them to maintain a fully vaccinated workforce without the option of testing.
Health workers are covered by the rule, which is managed by the Department of Health and Human Services' Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
Former President Donald Trump applauded the court's decision, stating that mandatory vaccines "would have further wrecked the economy."