U.S. tells court that blocking COVID-19 vaccine rule to cost lives

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks about COVID-19 vaccines at the White House in Washington
President Biden speaks about coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccines and booster shots at the White House in Washington, September 24, 2021. REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein/File Photo

Nov 8 (Reuters) - The Biden administration told a court on Monday it has clear authority to impose a COVID-19 vaccine rule on employers with at least 100 staff and that a court's order on Saturday blocking the rule could cost dozens or even hundreds of lives daily.

People are increasingly returning to work and they risk accelerating the spread of COVID-19 without the rule, said the filing in the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals by government lawyers.

"With the reopening of workplaces and the emergence of the highly transmissible Delta variant, the threat to workers is ongoing and overwhelming," said the filing.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) last week announced the rule, which also provides for a testing and masking alternative to vaccination and a Jan. 4 deadline. The agency said it was necessary to prevent 250,000 hospitalizations. read more

Republican governors, trade groups, private employers and religious organizations sued in various federal courts of appeal, arguing the administration overstepped its authority. read more

On Saturday, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans suspended the rule, citing "grave statutory and constitutional" issues. read more

The government filing was in response to a request by the plaintiffs for an injunction permanently blocking the rule. The government lawyers said that request was a premature.

The government lawyers noted that various cases that have been filed must be consolidated in one venue and it remains unclear which court will hear the cases. read more

A White House press secretary on Monday urged employers to push ahead with vaccinations despite the legal challenges. read more

Reporting by Tom Hals in Wilmington, Del. Additional reporting by Mike Scarcella in Washington Editing by Grant McCool and Matthew Lewis

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Tom Hals is an award-winning reporter with 25 years of experience working in Asia, Europe and the United States. Since 2009 he has covered legal issues and high-stakes court battles, ranging from challenges to pandemic policies to Elon Musk's campaign to end his deal for Twitter.