The Supreme Court is taking up challenges to President Joe Biden’s most aggressive attempts so far to combat the spread of Covid-19 — vaccine or testing requirements for large businesses and many health care workers — as the number of infections soar and 40 million adults in the US are still declining to get vaccinated.
Although the justices have been receptive to past attempts by states or universities to mandate vaccines, the new disputes center on federal requirements that raise different legal questions.
Two sets of rules were issued in November. The first would impact some 80 million people and requires large employers to mandate that their employees either get vaccinated or submit to weekly testing. A second regulation requires certain health care employees who work for facilities that participate in Medicare or Medicaid programs to obtain vaccinations.
Critics of the requirements, including a coalition of business groups and Republican-led states, say the Biden administration exceeded its authority in issuing such sweeping mandates that could lead to massive staff shortages and billions of dollars in compliance costs. The administration, on the other hand focuses on the impact of the virus that has already killed some 800,000 Americans, closed businesses and kept children out of classrooms.
Oral arguments are expected to last more than two hours and will be available on a live audio stream, although the chamber itself is closed except for lawyers, court personnel and journalists due to safety protocols aimed at containing the spread of the virus. The court announced this week that all nine of the vaccinated justices have received their booster shots.
Read more about today’s oral arguments here.