A US federal appeals court on Saturday froze President Joe Biden's mandate that all businesses with at least 100 employees require COVID-19 vaccinations or weekly testing.
There are potentially "grave statutory and constitutional" issues at play with Biden's mandate, a ruling from the New Orleans-based US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit says.
The panel of judges stated that "the Mandate is hereby STAYED pending further action by this court."
Biden's mandate was originally expected to take effect January 4.
The court gave the government until Monday at 5 p.m. to respond to the plaintiffs' motion for a permanent injunction.
Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Utah are among the states contesting the legality of the federal vaccination mandate, which has created an uproar among Republican politicians across the country, with more than half of all US states filing or joining lawsuits in opposition.
The rule from the federal government stipulated that employers with over 100 workers had to require vaccination against the coronavirus or conduct weekly testing, which would affect about 80 million Americans. The broader mandate would also affect about 17 million healthcare workers who are employed by hospitals that accept Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement, along with federal employees and contractors.
Critics have argued that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) lacks the statutory authority to enforce such a rule.
"This mandate is unconstitutional, unlawful, and unwise," said a lawsuit filed by Missouri and 10 other states in the US Court of Appeals for the Eight Circuit.
"Its unlawful mandate will cause injuries and hardship to working families, inflict economic disruption and staffing shortages on the States and private employers, and impose even greater strains on struggling labor markets and supply chains," the filing from a coalition of attorneys general led by Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt stated.
The lawsuit led by Florida, Alabama, and Georgia in the Atlanta-based 11th Circuit also argues that the rule requirements clash with the First Amendment and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
"This unlawful mandate is yet another example of the Biden administration's complete disregard for the Constitutional rights afforded to our state and our citizens," said GOP Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr in a statement. "The federal government has no authority to force healthcare decisions on Georgia's companies and its employees under the guise of workplace safety. We are fighting back against this unprecedented abuse of power to stop this mandate before it causes irreparable harm to our state and its economy."
The White House, Democratic lawmakers, and many public health officials have maintained that the mandate is a way to move the country forward from the coronavirus pandemic, which has left nearly 750,000 thousand dead in the US in less than two years. The pandemic has also wreaked havoc on the global economy and supply chains, snarling trade, forcing the closures of businesses and a triggering a shift in the US labor market.
Mandates for COVID-19 vaccines, which are proven to effectively reduce the risk of severe disease, hospitalization, and death, will help turn the tide to the pandemic, the nation's top infectious disease expert has maintained.
Dr. Anthony Fauci has also said he expects more colleges, universities and smaller businesses will continue to institute their own vaccine mandates.