The White House’s latest COVID-19 mitigation efforts are a contrast to the Supreme Court’s ruling today.
President Biden announced Thursday that his administration would double its previous promise to hand out free at-home COVID-19 tests, with plans to send out one billion to Americans’ homes. Along with that, the Biden administration will distribute N95 masks to the public as the country faces an unprecedented spike in COVID infections.
Biden is also deploying more military personnel to hospitals. Speaking from the White House the President said that next week he will send 1,000 military medics to hospitals across the country that have become overrun with patients dangerously sick with the coronavirus. The spread of the highly contagious Omicron variant has left the nation’s hospitals overburdened and short-staffed in recent weeks.
Biden didn’t mince his words in his address announcing the drastic moves.
Acknowledging that he knows the public is “frustrated” with the surge in cases, he placed the blame on one specific portion of the population: “as we remain in this pandemic, this is a pandemic of the unvaccinated. And I mean by this: Right now, both vaccinated and unvaccinated people are testing positive, but what happens after that could not be more different.”
The military deployment and doubled rollout of PPE comes as the the Supreme Court ties the administration’s hands with its ruling on the OSHA vaccine mandate this afternoon. SCOTUS blocked the enforcement of Biden’s executive order that would have required employers with 100-plus workers to enforce vaccine mandates or require weekly COVID testing in the workplace. It would’ve affected about 80 million Americans. (The court did let a similar mandate for health care workers at certain facilities that receive federal Medicare and Medicaid funding remain in place, at least for the time being.)
In the 6-3 ruling on the vaccine mandate, which would’ve been enforced by OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the court argued that the executive order transcended the executive branch’s authority. Josh Kovensky and Kate Riga have a good rundown of the ruling here. The conservative justices focused on the Biden order’s supposed infringement on the personal freedoms of employees, highlighting the uber-conservative court’s ongoing flirtation with anti-vax talking points.
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Given how oral arguments went, today’s ruling wasn’t hugely surprising.
And Biden made it clear this decision will do nothing but keep the U.S. captive to this lingering pandemic.
“The Court has ruled that my administration cannot use the authority granted to it by Congress to require this measure, but that does not stop me from using my voice as President to advocate for employers to do the right thing to protect Americans’ health and economy,” he said.
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