U.S. District Court Judge Gregory Van Tatenhove on Tuesday blocked the Biden administration from imposing a COVID-19 vaccine requirement on federal contractors and subcontractors in Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee.
Meanwhile, health care workers won’t be federally required for now to get the COVID-19 shot in Ohio and nationwide, U.S. District Court Judge Terry A. Doughty ruled Tuesday in another case Ohio also took part in. See the rulings below.
The Biden administration previously set a deadline of Nov. 22 for federal workers and Jan. 4 for federal contractors to be vaccinated against COVID-19, receive an exemption or face penalties. Now, federal officials are waiting until January to suspend non-compliant employees.
For health care workers, the U.S. president had imposed a Dec. 6 deadline for workers to get the first dose of the vaccine and a Jan. 4 deadline to be fully vaccinated. Now, hospitals and nursing homes will have more time to figure matters out.
Van Tatenhove wrote that his decision wasn’t about whether vaccines are effective or if the government can require them: They are and it can.
“The question presented here is narrow,” he wrote. “Can the president use congressionally delegated authority to manage the federal procurement of goods and services to impose vaccines on the employees of federal contractors and subcontractors? In all likelihood, the answer to that question is no.”
He also wrote that the vaccine mandate applies to employees of federal contractors and subcontractors who work entirely from home and are not at risk of spreading COVID-19.
Doughty made a similar ruling for health care workers, saying the federal executive branch does not have the constitutional authority to implement the vaccine requirement. It follows another federal ruling Monday that made the same decision but only applied to ten states.
Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost has challenged and sued over other aspects of Biden’s vaccine requirements, too, including a mandate that businesses with more than 100 employees require COVID-19 vaccines.
“This is not about vaccines, it’s about the mandates,” Yost said in a statement. “The judge’s opinion clearly states that and it has been our position all along that the president cannot impose these mandates on the people.”
The Biden administration is likely to appeal these injunctions, as it has with similar cases. With the rulings, the mandate’s effects are on hold until the issue is fully played out in the judicial system.
Biden and pro-vaccine advocates have called such mandates necessary to increase vaccination rates, while opponents argue they could lead to severe understaffing if workers quit to avoid being vaccinated.
Jessie Balmert and Titus Wu are reporters for the USA TODAY Network Ohio Bureau, which serves the Akron Beacon Journal, Cincinnati Enquirer, Columbus Dispatch and 18 other affiliated news organizations across Ohio.