- By Paul Feely New Hampshire Union Leader
- Nov 29, 2021 Updated 3 hrs ago
A federal judge blocked the government on Monday from mandating COVID-19 vaccinations for health care workers in New Hampshire and nine other states.
The Biden administration required vaccines for employees of facilities receiving federal Medicare and Medicaid dollars, impacting approximately 70 nursing homes in New Hampshire, along with hospitals and medical centers. Employees were to have been required to receive either their first dose of a two-shot vaccine or the Johnson & Johnson one-shot vaccine by Dec. 5.
U.S. District Judge Matthew Schelp in the Eastern District of Missouri wrote in his ruling that regulations handed down by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid earlier this month were issued improperly. The agency did not get approval from Congress to mandate vaccinations for health care workers, Schelp wrote, which he said is needed given the mandate’s “vast economic and political significance.”
Schelp also said the agency’s justification for issuing the rules without a standard period for public comment was not sufficient.
“Truly, the impact of this mandate reaches far beyond COVID,” Schelp wrote. “CMS seeks to overtake an area of traditional state authority by imposing an unprecedented demand to federally dictate the private medical decisions of millions of Americans. Such action challenges traditional notions of federalism.”
The preliminary injunction granted by Schelp involves New Hampshire, Alaska, Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming, with similar lawsuits pending in other states.
Some facilities in New Hampshire were preparing to lose staffers who said they wouldn’t go to work as soon as next week if the mandate was enforced.
Republican Gov. Chris Sununu called the ruling a “big win for New Hampshire’s health care system.”
“Nursing homes were at risk of closure if the Biden mandate remained in place,” said Sununu. “This helps maintain the staff New Hampshire needs to care for our loved ones.”
The federal government is barred from enforcing the CMS vaccine mandate against or within New Hampshire and the other plaintiff states until further notice, state Attorney General John Formella said.
“We will continue to participate in this litigation and seek permanent relief, and we will provide further updates to the public as this litigation progresses,” said Formella in a statement.
New Hampshire also joined several other states in a lawsuit challenging a separate rule requiring businesses with over 100 employees ensure workers get vaccinated or wear masks and get tested weekly for the coronavirus.
A federal court stayed that rule earlier this month.
Sununu sent a letter to the assistant secretary of labor for Occupational Safety and Health on Monday, asking OSHA to hold off on the vaccine mandate for large businesses for two months, in case the lawsuit fails and businesses in the Granite State need to quickly come into compliance.
“Absent that action, families and businesses are left with mixed messages from Washington and face draconian decisions during the holiday season,” Sununu’s letter read. “Heavy-handed decisions from Washington have left everyone confused — and the citizens and businesses of New Hampshire deserve clarity.”
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