Supreme Court to hear arguments Friday on vaccine rules that affect 80 million

The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday will hear arguments over whether the Biden administration can require large employers and health care workers to either be vaccinated against COVID-19 or be required to have regular tests to detect the virus.

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The court is hearing both cases on an emergency basis, and scheduled arguments rather than ruling on briefs submitted by the parties.

Most Supreme Court rulings are announced in June at the end of the court’s term, but on these cases, a decision from the justices will likely come in weeks or sooner.

The justices will be considering two issues. The first is whether an emergency rule adopted by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration that requires workers at businesses with 100 or more employees to be vaccinated or to be tested weekly is legal.

That rule was set to take effect Monday. According to OSHA, no fines would be imposed before late February if an employee refuses to follow the rule.

The second question is whether the administration can require health care workers to be vaccinated. The mandate would cover health care providers who work at facilities that receive federal Medicare or Medicaid funding. The rule would affect around 76,000 health care facilities and home health care providers.

Those challenging the president’s order say the administration exceeded its authority in requiring vaccines or testing while the administration says workplace safety regulations are enough to justify the measure.

The Justice Department argued in its brief to the high court that most of the employees who would be affected by the rule have already been vaccinated, but that the policy that applies to health care workers was urgent.

“That requirement will save hundreds or even thousands of lives each month,” the brief read.

In a statement, the White House said, “We are confident in the legal authority for both policies and DOJ will vigorously defend both at the Supreme Court.”

In response, lawyers for the states challenging the administration’s rule wrote that the “sweeping and unprecedented vaccine mandate for health care workers threatens to create a crisis in health care facilities in rural America.”

“The mandate would force millions of workers to choose between losing their jobs or complying with an unlawful federal mandate,” they wrote.

The oral arguments will begin at 10 a.m. ET.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.