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A federal judge has dealt another blow to the Biden administration regarding its ongoing response to the pandemic.
U.S. District Judge Terry A. Doughty in Louisiana struck down the administration’s mask and COVID-19 vaccine mandates for staffers of federally funded Head Start programs, The Hill reported on Thursday, adding:
In his ruling, Doughty found that the plaintiffs had satisfied the requirements to warrant a permanent injunction. He ruled that the plaintiffs — a group of Head Start teachers from across the country along with several state governments — faced a “substantial threat of irreparable injury” if the mandate wasn’t taken down.
“Plaintiff States will incur the increased cost of training and of enforcing the Head Start Mandate, will be unable to enforce their laws, and will have their police power encroached. The Court finds that this would be an irreparable injury,” Doughty wrote in his ruling, according to The Hill.
The Liberty Justice Center, which was involved in the suit, noted that Sandy Brick, a teacher, filed suit in December in Doughty’s court to block the mandate. She is also being represented by the Pelican Institute for Public Policy, according to a press release from the justice center.
“Although President Biden recently declared that the ‘pandemic is over,’ the fight to restore Americans’ individual liberties is not,” said Daniel Suhr, managing attorney at the Liberty Justice Center. “We will continue to fight for teachers like Sandy and the low-income students they serve until every illegal and unjustified mandate is wiped from the books. Today’s decision is a significant step toward undoing the injustice perpetrated against everyday Americans throughout the COVID-19 crisis.”
Sarah Harbison, general counsel at the Pelican Institute for Public Policy, noted as well following the ruling: “Louisiana teacher Sandy Brick has been serving her students through adversity and uncertainty the last two years. Today, this decision vindicates her right to teach without sacrificing her freedom.”
The press release further explained the genesis of the mandate:
The providers received the new mandate on Nov. 30, 2021, when the Office of Head Start under the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) published an “interim final rule.” The requirement demands that teachers, staff and volunteers in Head Start programs be “fully vaccinated” by Jan. 31, 2022, or face losing their jobs. It also placed a universal mask mandate on all adults and children over two years old.
“The public interest is served by maintaining the constitutional structure and maintaining the liberty of individuals who do not want to take the COVID-19 vaccine,” Doughty also noted in his ruling. “This interest outweighs Agency Defendants’ interests.
“The public has a liberty interest in not being required to take a vaccine or be fired from their jobs. The public interest must be taken into account before allowing Agency Defendants to mandate vaccines. Although vaccines arguably serve the public interest, the liberty interests of individuals mandated to take the COVID-19 vaccine outweigh any interest generated by the mandatory administration of vaccines,” he added.
The Liberty Justice Center noted that the Biden administration must now decide whether to appeal Doughty’s ruling, and if it does, then it will be heard by the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, the same court that blocked the administration’s vaccine mandate for private businesses.
That said, The Hill noted that Doughty’s injunction applies to the 24 state governments that acted as plaintiffs in this case: Louisiana, Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, West Virginia and Wyoming.
“The masking requirement for Head Start grant recipients is one of the only remaining federal mask mandates. Last week, HHS announced it would be dropping the requirement in the near future to align with current guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),” The Hill noted further.