An appeal challenging the federal mask mandate on airplanes was rejected by the Supreme Court on Tuesday.
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Reports indicate that a father filed an emergency application on behalf of himself and his autistic son, both of whom argue that they are medically incapable of wearing masks for extended periods of time.
The father filed his application with Neil Gorsuch, who handles emergency applications for several western states. It was referred to the full court, which rejected the matter without comment or notice of dissent.
As a result of an executive order signed by President Biden, passengers on planes and other public transportation are now required to wear masks to prevent the spread of coronavirus, which is responsible for more than 850,000 deaths across the United States.
The Supreme Court last month rejected a request by Lucas Wall – who sought publicity from his legal challenges to the federal public transportation mask mandate.
Just a week earlier, the justices announced a split decision about Biden’s vaccine-or-test mandate for large employers. The court voted 6 to 3 to block the mandate, but 5 to 4 to maintain the vaccine requirement at federally funded facilities.
A decision handed down by the Supreme Court on Thursday blocked President Joe Biden’s vaccine-or-test mandate requiring private employers with 100 or more employees to comply.
Despite this, the high court did allow a vaccine mandate to go into effect for employees working in health care facilities receiving federal funds.
The conservative majority of the court ruled 6-3 that the administration overstepped its authority by seeking to make the rule binding on large US companies.
It would have affected approximately 84 million people.
Justice Roberts and Kavanaugh joined with liberal Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, and Stephen Breyer to rule in favor of the mandate on healthcare workers in Medicare and Medicaid-funded settings, resulting in a 5-4 decision.
This is the latest blow in what has been a difficult day for Vice President Biden, who just a few hours ago failed to mobilize Democratic support to scuttle the filibuster and pass voting rights legislation.
In September, Biden announced sweeping measures to get more Americans vaccinated following the drop in the rate of vaccinations over the summer as the Delta variant brought a new wave of infections. If implemented, they would have affected a combined one-third of the US workforce.
OSHA, the federal agency with responsibility for ensuring public and private workplace safety, released details for private sector workplace safety rules in response to the president’s order.
In the 6-3 majority opinion, the conservative justices claim the rule ‘draws no distinctions based on industry or risk of exposure to COVID–19.’
Currently, the 9 members of the supreme court consists of only three liberal justices, with Kavanaugh, Barrett, and Gorsuch all appointed by the former White House president, Donald Trump.
Barrett and Kavanaugh asked Elizabeth Prelogar, the administration’s top Supreme Court lawyer, tough questions.
The court heard testimony from Republican states and business leaders who say Biden’s mandate about businesses with over 100 employees overstepped federal authority.
There was support for the employer rule by three liberal justices. According to Elena Kagan, officials have demonstrated ‘quite clearly that no other policy will prevent sickness and death to anywhere like the degree that this one will.’
Breyer said he was unable to accept that it was in the ‘public interest’ to put that rule on hold. He cited the 750,000 new COVID cases this week that had hospitals busting at the seams.
Nevertheless, Roberts asked Prelogar if Occupational Safety and Health Administration was empowered to introduce the mandate under the 1970 law that established it.
‘That was 50 years ago that you’re saying Congress acted. I don’t think it had COVID in mind.
‘That was almost closer to the Spanish flu than it is to today’s problem,’ he said in reference to the 1918 pandemic.
‘This is something the federal government has never done before,’ Roberts added, casting doubt on the administration’s argument that a half-century-established law, the Occupational Safety and Health Act, confers such broad authority.
As the nation is gripped by the latest wave of infections, triggered by the highly contagious Omicron variant, the court heard arguments.
As the Ohio solicitor general, Benjamin Flowers, asserted that the mandates were formulated when another, more dangerous variant – Delta – was the most prevalent in the state.
In a statement, Justice Sonia Sotamayor took issue with his way of explaining the pandemic.
‘We have more affected people in the country today than we had a year ago in January,’ she said.
‘We have hospitals that are almost at full capacity with people severely ill on ventilators.
‘We have over 100,000 children which we’ve never had before, in serious condition. And many on ventilators.’
In addition to hearing arguments for more than two hours, the justices also heard arguments on whether to block the administration’s vaccine requirement for healthcare facilities.
As the lower courts continue to hear cases, the justices have been asked to order an emergency block.
Friday was a clear example of the impact of the pandemic. There was a court hearing held in a building that has been closed to the public for almost two years and two lawyers tested positive for COVID-19 and had to deliver their arguments remotely.
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President Biden’s top medical advisor, Dr. Anthony Fauci, appeared on several Sunday morning shows last December to offer advice on safe travel during the holiday season and beyond.
He said that being vaccinated and boosted greatly reduces the risk of becoming seriously ill from Covid-19 or requiring hospitalization. He also stressed the importance of wearing face masks during all phases of air travel.
Fauci said on ABC, “I think people just need to be prudent. Clearly, when you travel, there is always a risk of increase infection that just goes with respiratory illnesses. But if people need to travel and want to travel for the obvious family reasons during this holiday season, and if you’re vaccinated and you’re boosted and you take care when you go into congregate settings like airports to make sure you continually wear your mask, you should be okay.”
“Are we going to get to the point where we won’t have to wear masks on airplanes?” asked Jonathan Karl of the network.
“I don’t think so,” Fauci answered. “I think when you’re dealing with a closed space, even though the filtration is good, that you want to go that extra step when you have people — you know, you get a flight from Washington to San Francisco, it’s well over a five-hour flight. Even though you have a good filtration system, I still believe that masks are a prudent thing to do, and we should be doing it.”