Court blocks COVID vaccine mandate for federal contractors in Ohio

A preliminary injunction was granted, which prevents the Biden administration mandate from being enforced.

A federal judge has blocked a Biden administration mandate that would have required federal contractors and subcontractors in Ohio to get COVID-19 vaccines.

The requirement was set to go into effect Jan. 4 and would cover an estimated 3.5 million people nationwide.

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Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost announced Nov. 4 that he had filed a suit challenging the mandate, together with Geauga County Prosecutor Jim Flaiz and Sheriff Scott Hildenbrand, Seneca County Sheriff Fredrick Stevens and the attorneys general of Kentucky and Tennessee.

The preliminary injunction was approved Tuesday in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky and blocks the mandate in not only Ohio but also Kentucky and Tennessee.

In granting the preliminary injunction, Judge Gregory Van Tatenhove wrote that this “is not a case about whether vaccines are effective. They are. Nor is this a case about whether the government, at some level, and in some circumstances, can require citizens to obtain vaccines. It can.”

“The question presented here is narrow,” Van Tatenhove wrote in his decision. “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.”

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The news comes at a time when many job postings already remain open. When Yost filed the suit, he voiced concerns about workforce losses as well as federal overreach.

“This is not about vaccines, it’s about the mandates,” Yost said in a statement Tuesday. “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 move also comes as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations surge in the region and across Ohio, with the brunt of the disease and death borne by unvaccinated residents.

As of Tuesday afternoon, 984 people were in Ohio intensive care units with COVID-19, up 47% from three weeks ago. That represents about 1 in 4 Ohio ICU patients with COVID-19.

Health officials have been urging those not yet vaccinated against the coronavirus to do so to protect themselves, those around them, and health system capacity.

When announcing the details of its federal contractor vaccine rules, the Biden administration had pointed to a White House report saying vaccination requirements work and are good for the economy.

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