We tried to predict what the Supreme Court would do with President Biden’s vaccine mandates on health care workers and on employees of larger companies (see Supreme Court hears arguments on forced vaccination in two parallel universes).
In the ruling on the health care industry, dependent on the twin rivers of Medicare and Medicaid cash, the Supreme Court said the following:
In many facilities, 35% or more of staff remain unvaccinated, … and those staff, the Secretary explained, pose a serious threat to the health and safety of patients. That determination was based on data showing that the COVID–19 virus can spread rapidly among healthcare workers and from them to patients, and that such spread is more likely when healthcare workers are unvaccinated.
the Secretary also found that “fear of exposure” to the virus “from unvaccinated health care staff can lead patients to themselves forgo seeking medically necessary care,” creating a further “ris[k] to patient health and safety.”
(The last one is interesting. Suppose that we find that patients are uncomfortable with white cisgender heterosexual physicians, whom they perceive as intellectually inferior due to being able to slide into medical school via privilege. Can the government order that the health care industry hire only the BIPOC and 2SLGBTQQIA+? Otherwise patients might forgo seeking medically necessary care.)
The core of the above-cited section is that a lawyer, with no technical or scientific training, has decided to disagree with a Stanford Medical School professor (see “Benefit of COVID-19 vaccination accounting for potential risk compensation” (Nature)) who found that the vaccinated might actually be more likely to get infected and spread disease if you assume (a) an imperfect vaccine, and (b) humans take more risks once they’ve been told that they’re invulnerable due to vaccination. (see also Perfect illustration of risk compensation rendering COVID-19 vaccines ineffective and Why doesn’t the raging plague in Maskachusetts cause doubt among the true believers in Faucism?)
So the Supreme Court accepts as scientific fact that vaccination and casting out the unvaccinated are critical to #StopTheSpread. This, plus potential patient discomfort with heretical providers, led to the Court approving Biden’s order.
In the ruling on generic private employers, however, COVID-19 seems to be a different, much milder, disease. Certainly COVID-19 does not present a “grave danger” to humans nor is SARS-CoV-2 “toxic or physically harmful.”
[workplace-related orders from the Pharaoh] are permissible, however, only in the narrowest of circumstances: the Secretary must show (1) “that employees are exposed to grave danger from exposure to substances or agents determined to be toxic or physically harmful or from new hazards,” and (2) that the “emergency standard is necessary to protect employees from such danger.”
So too could OSHA regulate risks associated with working in particularly crowded or cramped environments. But the danger present in such workplaces differs in both degree and kind from the everyday risk of contracting COVID–19 that all face. OSHA’s indiscriminate approach fails to account for this crucial distinction— between occupational risk and risk more generally—and accordingly the mandate takes on the character of a general public health measure,
The last paragraph says that there is an inevitable risk of COVID-19 exposure based on inhabiting the biosphere for workers, but, based on the previous ruling, this is apparently untrue for patients visiting Medicare- and Medicaid-funded health care facilities.
Let’s see who among us got this right…
- I was at 50% (correct about health care order being approved, a 95 percent prediction and incorrect on my “less confident” prediction that the workplace order would be approved)
- Craig said “I’m predicting the court will find the federal vaccine mandate to be an overreach simply because the narrative is already shifting towards Omicron <= flu and we must learn to live with it (like you predicted). There is no federal mandate for flu vaccinations, although I believe some federal agencies like VA hospitals can require staff to have flu immunizations.” (he didn’t separate out the two issues before the Court, but I think we might have to give him 100% since he mentioned “federal agencies” (and any enterprise on the Medicare/Medicaid dole is essentially a federal agency)
- Jack was at 50%: “My guess is the Court will rule against the Biden administration — seems that a substantial number of Americans are opposed to the vaccine mandate & therefore any mandate will be widely ignored. Affects the Court’s legitimacy to uphold law that will be ignored & will encourage civil disobedience. Also, as a matter of numbers, the statist justices are in the minority.”
- JT was at 50%: “Predict struck down and that it’s a blessing for Biden. It’s obvious it doesn’t stop the spread so all a mandate could possibly do is create onerous bureaucracy people hate.”
Can these rulings be considered logically consistent? There are sicker/older people who go to hospitals than to work. But on the other hand, hospital staff are highly competent at using the masks that the government says stop COVID-19 transmission. Also, the ruling is based on the vaccines being highly effective and sicker/older people are generally vaccinated. And if they can catch COVID-19 nonetheless, they will eventually catch COVID-19 indirectly from people who get COVID-19 in the unsafe workplaces. Ivan pointed out that “Sotomayor claimed that the federal government has ‘a police power to protect workers'”. If we combine these two orders do we find that the federal government has a police power to protect those visiting health care facilities, but as soon as the visit is over the police power evaporates?
Color me confused! The Supreme Court accepts that vaccination leads to reduced COVID-19 infection and transmission, and that the peasantry believe this as well, and therefore the government can order doctors and nurses to be vaccinated. Yet the government cannot order this vital protection for workers outside of health care? And, though this issue wasn’t before the Court, it sounds as though, unless prohibited by state law (as in Florida!), a mayor can order the peasants within a city to be vaccinated if they want to leave their hovels (see Washington, D.C. vaccine papers and Photo ID checks start tomorrow for example). Full post, including comments