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White House urges businesses to proceed with COVID vaccinations plans

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
Alex Brandon
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

OSHA has put the mandate on hold after an stay by a federal appeals court. However, the Biden administration says "nothing has changed" regarding its message to companies with more than 100 workers.

The White House is urging businesses to move forward with efforts to vaccinate workers, though the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has put on hold a controversial rule after an order by a federal appeals court.

“Let me be very clear, our message to businesses right now is to move forward with measures that will make their workplaces safer and protect their workforces from COVID-19,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Thursday. “That was our message after the first stay issued by the 5th Circuit (the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals). That remains our message. And nothing has changed.”

Numerous states, including Florida, and businesses have filed legal challenges to the OSHA rule, which would apply to employers with 100 or more workers. Those workers would have to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or test negative at least once a week.

But the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which hears cases from Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas, issued an order reaffirming a stay it had placed on the rule, which had been scheduled to take effect Jan. 4.

OSHA announced Wednesday that it would suspend “activities related to the implementation and enforcement of the (rule) pending future developments in the litigation.”

Florida’s challenge has been consolidated with others in the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which is based in Cincinnati.

Psaki said the U.S. Department of Justice is “vigorously” defending the vaccination rule, known as an emergency temporary standard, “and we are confident in OSHA's authority.”

Psaki said recent polling has shown 60 percent of businesses are moving forward with COVID-19 measures intended to keep workplaces safe.

“They're essentially implementing components or versions of these vaccine requirements, because they know it's in the interest of their workforces to protect their workforces to make sure they can bring more people back to the workforce,” she said. “And we certainly see that as a positive sign. So, we are still heading towards the same timeline.”

During a special legislative session, Florida lawmakers on Wednesday approved a series of measures intended to counter vaccination mandates. Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the bills Thursday.