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Business advocates say SCOTUS ruling striking down vaccine mandate relieves businesses struggling to find workers

Local health experts were concerned Thursday, saying Coronavirus is a public health crisis but isn’t being treated as such.
Published: Jan. 13, 2022 at 9:27 PM CST
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - The ruling by the Supreme Court striking down the Biden vaccine-or-test mandate for businesses with more than 100 employees was welcome news to business advocates, but troubling news for some health experts.

The mandate, put in place by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (or OSHA), required businesses with 100 or more employees to either require their employees be vaccinated or submit to weekly testing.

Louisiana business advocates, like Stephen Waguespack, President, and CEO of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry (or LABI), said the mandate was not only burdensome, but unconstitutional.

“It would have been unworkable, it would have been unreasonable, and so we think the Supreme Court definitely made the right decision today,” Waguespack said. “Having said that, we definitely encourage folks to get vaccinated, to consult with your doctors, in no way do we think this ruling undermines the effort to promote vaccinations. But what it does do is it upholds the rule of law.”

The conservative-majority Supreme Court appeared to agree with him, striking down the mandate on Thursday, but leaving in place a separate vaccine mandate for healthcare workers.

“The evidence was clear. There’s no plausible reason to assume that OSHA, an agency that really was designed to regulate things like broom closets and mop buckets, would be best prepared to put such a burdensome and onerous mandate on employers all across the country,” Waguespack said.

OSHA, which was founded in 1970, is tasked with ensuring “safe and healthful working conditions for workers by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education, and assistance.”

The federal agency didn’t exist during the last major global pandemic of this scale, the 1918 influenza pandemic.

Dr. Eric Griggs, a local health educator and Fox 8 contributor, said never in his lifetime has he seen this type of juxtaposition of public health, government, and politics.

“If I’m not mistaken, OSHA’s function is for worker’s safety,” Dr. Griggs said. “With HIV, in the 40 years of its existence in our country, we lost about 750,000 to 760,000 people. In 22 months, we’ve lost unfortunately 860,000. So there is a public risk, and I guess [the Supreme Court] want to leave the decision up to the individual employers and the individuals that are employees.”

The American Health Care Association (AHCA), which represents more than 14,000 nursing homes and long-term care facilities, came out against the separate ruling impacting health care workers, saying it will disproportionately harm communities with a high population of vaccine-hesitant people.

“We respect the ruling of the U.S. Supreme Court but remain concerned that the repercussions of the vaccine mandate among health care workers will be devastating to an already decimated long term care workforce,” said Mark Parkinson, President, and CEO of AHCA. “When we are in the midst of another COVID surge, caregivers in vaccine hesitant communities may walk off the job because of this policy, further threatening access to care for thousands of our nation’s seniors. We continue to ask that CMS and state surveyors show leniency during this critical time as well as consider a regular testing option for unvaccinated staff members to prevent worsening staff shortages.”

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