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The White House is once again seeking to reinstate President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate and is asking a federal court to intervene.
On Monday, the Justice Department requested that a federal appeals court allow the administration to resume enforcement of the mandate for federal employees that was previously blocked by a lower court.
The request by the DoJ follows a 2-1 ruling by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans last week reversing its decision blocking the COVID-19 vaccine mandate for civilian federal workers.
The Justice Dept. argued that the jurist who blocked the mandate in January, U.S. District Judge Jeffrey Brown of the Southern District of Texas, a Donald Trump appointee, lacked the jurisdiction to do so.
Attorneys for the DOJ on Monday asked the appeals court to take “appropriate steps so that the government may resume implementation and enforcement” of Biden’s federal vaccine mandate executive order.
They added that the measures are “justified by the serious ongoing harm to the public interest and to the government,” though the virus has receded throughout the country and health officials in many states no longer view it as a major threat.
The Washington Examiner reports:
In the panel’s 2-1 decision, the majority said the plaintiffs who sued against the mandates sought “to circumvent” the Civil Service Reform Act’s review scheme, siding with the argument posited by the Biden administration for employees to raise their grievances through the CSRA.
In September, Biden said he would mandate nearly 3.5 million federal employees to be vaccinated by Nov. 22, barring medical or religious accommodations, or be subjugated to discipline or termination from employment.
The mandate was struck by lawsuits following its implementation in the fall. A challenge was brought in December by a 6,000-member group called Feds for Medical Freedom, which led to the policy being temporarily blocked in January.
According to White House figures, 93% of government employees have received at least one vaccine dose, and 98% have been fully vaccinated, with the remaining 4% seeking religious or medical exemption.
The U.S. Supreme Court summarily blocked the president’s vaccination-or-testing mandate for businesses with more than 100 workers in January. However, the nation’s highest court did allow a separate vaccine requirement to remain in place for healthcare facilities.
In February, the appeals court refused to reinstate the mandate for federal workers.
“The 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals did not explain its reasoning in the unsigned order that said the court was expediting its review of the case,” CNN reported at the time. “The court said the Biden administration’s request to put the lower court’s ruling on hold was being ‘carried with the case,’ signaling that the appeals court would not rule on the request until it had conducted a fuller review of the case.
“The mandate, which applied to some 3.5 million federal workers, required full vaccination by the end of November, although the administration said it would first counsel employees who resisted vaccination rather than discipline or fire them,” CNN continued.
“On December 9, the Office of Management and Budget said the federal workforce was 97.2% compliant with the mandate — a figure that included people who had pending or approved exemptions,” the network added.
As of this writing, there have been more than 500 million cases of the virus globally, with more than 6.2 million deaths, according to the WorldOMeter website, which has tracked the spread of the virus since the outset of the pandemic.
Cases spiked again earlier this year but they were mostly the far milder Omicron variant.
In the U.S. alone, there were more than 82 million COVID-19 cases and just over 1 million deaths, most of them during Biden’s term. California had the most cases and deaths, while Vermont had the fewest in both catagories.