The Supreme Court’s conservative majority has condemned tens of thousands of Americans to COVID-19 deaths and illness and likely prolonged the pandemic for another year or more.
That’s the upshot of the court’s 6-3 ruling along partisan lines to strike down the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate for 80 million workers at businesses with 100 or more employees.
The ruling stripped bare the impact of overloading the court with hard-right conservative justices and how politically driven the court has become with recent appointments.
More than 800,000 people have died from the virus or complications caused by the virus, with more than 1,000 people dying every day in the United States.
The COVID-19 pandemic is being fueled by nearly 120 million unvaccinated Americans who are allowing the virus to sustain itself and potentially incubate into new, deadlier variants, according to health experts.
Unvaccinated citizens are 17 times more likely to end up in the hospital and 20 times more likely to die, according to the White House.
Nearly every teenager in intensive care for COVID-19 was unvaccinated, according to a new study of more than 1,000 hospital patients.
By the same token, the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine prevented 94 percent of hospitalizations and was 98 percent effective in keeping patients out of intensive care and off life support, the New England Journal of Medicine reported.
Only 63 percent of the country is fully vaccinated and just 37% have received both shots and a booster shot, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
The controversial ruling can be attributed squarely to the Trump administration’s hand-picked justices, Amy Coney Barrett, Brett Cavenaugh and Neil Gorsuch, the only jurist who refuses to wear a mask in court.
They were joined by conservative justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito and centrist Chief Judge John G. Roberts, Jr..
Justices Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor issued a rare joint dissent, arguing the government will lose a key tool to stem “the unparalleled threat that COVID–19 poses to our nation’s workers.”
Oddly, the court declined to overturn a similar mandate requiring shots for workers in nursing homes, hospitals and other facilities that receive Medicare and Medicaid payments.
But the bifurcation only highlighted the political nature of the ruling and the court’s long standing bias in favor of large corporations.
The mandate, initiated by tbe Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), had partially taken effect. OSHA was withholding citations until at least Feb. 9 to give employers time to implement the rule.
OSHA estimated the mandate would save more than 6,500 worker lives over six months and that was before the Omicron variant explosion, which has sent case rates soaring.
The 6th US Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the mandate after it had blocked nationwide by a federal judge in December. The rule had been initially blocked nationwide by the conservative 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals.
To reach its conclusion, the court majority engaged in legal hair-splitting that seems ludicrious on its face. “Although Congress has indisputably given OSHA the power to regulate occupational dangers, it has not given that agency the power to regulate public health more broadly,” the court said.
That conclusion flies directly in the face of the real world impact of COVID-19 in workplaces across the country.
The meat processing industry was ravaged by outbreaks of COVID in the first year of the pandemic as workers spread the disease among themselves on tightly packed production lines. Workers say they still face a grim choice between their safety and their livelihoods, according to The New York Times.
Blue collar and factory workers are hit hardest because they don’t have the luxury of remote work like skilled professionals and white collar workers.
With the surge of the Omicron variant, businesses across the country have been forced to curtail operations or shut down because of the number of employees who are calling in sick.
Of note, since United Airlines imposed a vaccine mandate on its employees, the carrier has not seen a single employee die from the virus. Before the mandate, the airline was losing about one employee a week.
OSHA issued the rule as a so-called emergency temporary standard, or ETS. That gave it six months to meet a more demanding legal test by showing it is “necessary” to protect employees from “grave danger.”
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services issued the health care mandate for health facilities that receive Medicare and Medicaid reinbursements.
The court upheld the measure because it concluded Congress had authorized the agency to protect the health and safety of Medicaid and Medicare recipients.
“Ensuring that providers take steps to avoid transmitting a dangerous virus to their patients is consistent with the fundamental principle of the medical profession: first, do no harm,” the court said.
The U.S. toll could easily hit 1 million or more before enough people are vaccinated or enough of the unvaccinated die off to curb the virus’s spread, according to a New York Independent examination of federal data.
Ten months since the first COVID-19 vaccine was approved, more than 120 million Americans have not yet received one dose. About 48 million are children under age 12, who have just been authorized to received shots.
That means an estmated 72 million people older than 12 are resisting vaccination.