Judge Says Biden's Vaccine Mandate goes Beyond Workplace and Into Public Health, Blocks it

A federal judge in Missouri issued a preliminary injunction Monday blocking President Joe Biden's COVID vaccine mandate for federal contractors in 10 states, saying it extended beyond the president's authority and was more of a public health mandate than a workplace mandate.

The decision comes in addition to the nationwide halt to the mandate issued by a federal judge in Georgia on Dec. 7.

U.S. Magistrate Judge David Noce issued the ruling saying that the federal government can typically only set rules like wages, non-discrimination policies and employees' rights for federal contracts.

"The vaccine mandate would reach beyond the workplace and into the realm of public health," Noce wrote. "The Court concludes that plaintiffs are likely to succeed on the issue of whether the mandate exceeds the scope of the power granted to the President" under federal law.

The mandate was introduced by Biden in September in an executive order along with mandates for healthcare workers and private companies that have over 100 employees. All of the mandates are facing some degree of legal challenges.

When the mandates were announced, the White House estimated that combined, they would affect as many as 100 million Americans. Just over 61 percent of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The order said that to follow guidelines created by a workplace safety task force, federal contracts that are new, renewed or extended, had to include a clause requiring employees to receive the second dose of a COVID vaccine by Jan. 4, though some medical or religious exemptions were allowed.

First, a judge in Kentucky stopped the mandate in Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee. The national injunction followed earlier this month, and Noce's ruling responded to a collective lawsuit from 10 states.

Joe Biden, COVID Vaccine Mandate, Missouri Judge
President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the Covid-19 response and the vaccination program at the White House on Aug. 23, 2021 in Washington, DC. A federal judge in Missouri issued a preliminary injunction halting Biden's COVID vaccine mandate for federal contractors in 10 states, on top of a nationwide injunction against the order from a judge in Georgia earlier this month. Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

The latest injunction applies in Alaska, Arkansas, Iowa, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming.

Biden's other vaccine mandates are in various stages of enforcement.

A three-judge panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday reversed a previous injunction against a Biden mandate that employers with more than 100 employees require their workers to be vaccinated or get tested weekly and wear masks. But Republican attorneys general, business associations and several conservative groups immediately appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

A separate requirement that health workers be vaccinated against COVID-19 is on hold in half the states due to preliminary injunctions. But Biden's administration has asked the Supreme Court to block those lower court orders.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.