By Anders Hagstrom
The U.S. Supreme Court declined to block a vaccine mandate for health workers in the state of Maine on Tuesday, sending a potential green light to state mandates across the country.
Justice Stephen Breyer, who handles emergency requests from Maine for the court, was responsible for the denial, which he said came “without prejudice.” The challenge came from a group of Maine health workers who argued Democratic Maine Gov. Janet Mills’ vaccine mandate was illegal. With the SCOTUS denial, the mandate for employees at hospitals and nursing homes will take effect next week, according to The Hill.
Many states have become battlegrounds over enforcement of vaccine mandates in recent months, with courts in Florida, New York and elsewhere blocking various efforts to impose mandates. (RELATED: Border Patrol Agents Could Be Fired If They Don’t Get Vaccinated For COVID-19)
During a Tuesday episode of NPR’s “All Things Considered”, Patty Wight, a reporter with Maine Public Radio, said ambulance crews across the state face staffing crises, as some paramedics and EMTs are quitting over the mandate.
Waldoboro, Maine, town manager Julie Keizer says the mandate might cripple emergency services that were thinly stretched throughout the pandemic. Deputy fire chief Cody Fenderson of Fort Fairfield said eight workers quit after Mills issued the mandate, according to NPR.
In Lewiston, Central Maine Medical Center has begun to curb the number of hospital admissions due to an “acute shortage” of nurses, ABC News reported. Dozens of health care workers have also quit, however, according to ABC News, most workers followed the mandate.
President Joe Biden imposed a federal vaccine mandate in September requiring all companies with more than 100 employees to ensure their workers are either vaccinated or take a weekly COVID-19 test. The mandate would affect roughly 100 million Americans, and many groups plan to challenge the policy as soon as it goes into effect.
“We’re going to protect vaccinated workers from unvaccinated co-workers,” Biden said when introducing the mandate. “We’ll reduce the spread of COVID-19 by increasing the share of the workforce that’s vaccinated in business all across America.”
Republican South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem vowed to sue the federal government the day Biden announced the policy, and the state of Arizona has already filed a lawsuit as well. Days later, 24 state attorneys general signed a public letter vowing to take legal action if Biden’s mandate takes effect.
“Your plan is disastrous and counterproductive,” the group wrote in the letter. “If your Administration does not alter its course, the undersigned state Attorneys General will seek every available legal option to hold you accountable and uphold the rule of law.”
SCOTUS has yet to weigh in on Biden’s federal mandate.