U.S. Supreme Court blocks Biden’s vaccine mandate for large companies

The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that the Biden administration must stop enforcing a rule that employees at big companies take the COVID vaccine, but permitted vaccine requirements for most health care workers. William Brangham reports.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    President Biden's plan for fighting the pandemic has taken a hit at the U.S. Supreme Court.

    He lost in his effort to knock down a challenge to one vaccine mandate today, while winning another.

    William Brangham begins our coverage.

  • William Brangham:

    The court ruled that the Biden administration must stop enforcing a rule that employees at big companies take the COVID vaccine or undergo routine testing. The conservative majority of justices said the administration had overstepped its authority with the rule, which would've applied to more than 80 million workers.

    Separately, the court did allow the administration's requirement that most health care workers in the U.S., roughly 10 million, be vaccinated against COVID-19.

    In a statement, President Biden welcomed that stance on the mandate for health care workers, but said he's disappointed the justices opposed what he called — quote — "commonsense, lifesaving requirements for employees at large businesses."

    This news comes as a wave of new coronavirus infections strain hospitals across the country and the president called for reinforcements.

    Joe Biden, President of the United States: Today, I'm announcing our next deployment of six additional federal medical teams, a total of more than 120 military medical personnel to six hard-hit states.

  • William Brangham:

    Those states are New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Ohio, Michigan, and New Mexico.

    The White House says this is the beginning of a deployment of 1,000 service members to aid beleaguered medical staffs. The president also announced another mass purchase of COVID tests.

  • Joe Biden:

    In addition to the 500 million, half-a-billion tests that are in the process of being acquired to ship to you, home for free, today, I'm directing my team to procure an additional 500 million more tests to distribute for free.

  • William Brangham:

    This comes after yesterday's announcement that the administration is sending 10 million more COVID tests each month to schools nationwide.

    But many public health experts say the administration should've ramped up testing supply a long time ago.

    On NBC's "Today," Vice President Kamala Harris was pressed on whether the administration was caught flat-footed and on when the newly ordered tests will be delivered.

    Kamala Harris, Vice President of the United States: They have been ordered.

    We — I have to look at the current information. I think it's going to be by next week, but soon, absolutely soon. And it is a matter of urgency for us.

    Craig Melvin, "The Today Show": Should we have done that sooner?

  • Kamala Harris:

    We are doing it.

  • Craig Melvin:

    But should we have done it sooner?

  • Kamala Harris:

    We are doing it.

  • William Brangham:

    Rising infections are also causing schools in many parts of the country to close.

    In New York City, home to the biggest school district in America, Mayor Eric Adams said this surge could send the city's one million kids back to some form of virtual learning.

    But there are some signs of light. New data suggests infections in some Northeastern states may have reached their peak. Earlier this week, New York Governor Kathy Hochul said cases in New York look like they may have crested.

  • Gov. Kathy Hochul (D-NY):

    We are not at the end, but I wanted to say that this is, to me, a glimmer of hope, a glimmer of hope at a time when we desperately need that.

  • William Brangham:

    For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm William Brangham.

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