(The Center Square) - The Biden administration is asking a federal appeals court in New Orleans to lift a temporary order halting a federal COVID-19 vaccination mandate on private businesses, while telling employers to comply with the mandate anyway.
"We think people should not wait," White House Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said. "We say, do not wait to take actions that will keep your workplace safe. It is important and critical to do and waiting to get more people vaccinated will lead to more outbreaks and sickness."
The administration's 28-page legal request was in response to a U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals injunction that cited "grave statutory and constitutional issues" when suspending the mandate pending further litigation.
The COVID-19 vaccination mandate applies to businesses with 100 or more employees, affecting an estimated 84 million workers. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is enforcing the policy, which requires workers to be fully vaccinated by Jan. 4 or undergo weekly testing.
"OSHA's detailed analysis of the [mandate's] impact shows that a stay would likely cost dozens or even hundreds of lives per day," the administration's Monday court filing said.
The administration claimed the OSHA's authority is grounded in its traditional role of protecting workers from workplace dangers, such as exposure to "substances or agents" that are determined to be toxic.
"The COVID-19 virus is both a physically harmful agent and a new hazard," the court filing said.
The filing further urged the court to lift the temporary stay and deny a request for a permanent injunction against the mandate, saying current legal objections are "premature" because of the policy's Jan. 4 deadline.
"Accordingly, there is no need to address petitioners' stay motions now, and the Court should lift its administrative stay and allow this matter to proceed under the process that Congress set forth for judicial review of OSHA standards," it said.
The appeals court gave the administration until 5 p.m. Monday to respond to its weekend ruling. The court then gave Brandon Trosclair, a Louisiana businessman, until 5 p.m Tuesday to file a reply to the government's response.
"A final ruling could come as early as Wednesday," said Sarah Harbison, an attorney representing Trosclair and general counsel for the New Orleans-based Pelican Institute for Public Policy.
If the Fifth Circuit permanently blocks the mandate, the administration could appeal directly to the U.S. Supreme Court, she said.