Supreme Court Allows Vaccine Mandate for New York Health Care Workers

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“In the face of a particularly contagious variant of the virus amid a pandemic that has now cost over 750,000 lives in the US and approximately 55,000 in New York, the state has decided, as an emergency measure, to require vaccination for all employees, health facilities that become infected and others could expose them to the virus as long as they can be safely vaccinated, ”wrote a unanimous three-person jury of the court of appeal in an unsigned statement. “This was a sensible exercise of the state’s power to make rules to protect public health.”

In an urgency motion calling on the Supreme Court to intervene, health worker attorneys wrote that the requirement “imposes an unscrupulous choice on New York health workers: to give up their beliefs or their careers and their best means to care for their families.” worry about losing. ”

New York attorney general Barbara D. Underwood responded that the state is not allowing a religious exception to its longstanding measles and rubella requirements. The medical exception to compulsory vaccination, she added, is “severely limited in scope and duration,” so very few people are eligible.

In general, she wrote, “it is of the utmost importance to achieve high vaccination rates in particularly vulnerable environments”.

In his dissent, Judge Gorsuch wrote that the protection of religious freedom justified a different approach.

“Today we don’t just let the applicants through,” he wrote. “We fail ourselves.”

“We are allowing the state to insist on firing thousands of medical workers – whom New York has relied on for the past 21 months and praised for their service on the front lines of the pandemic,” the judiciary wrote. “To make the injury worse, we are allowing the state to deny these people unemployment benefits as well. One can only hope that today’s judgment is not the last chapter in this dark story. “

Judge Gorsuch had made similar arguments in the Maine case.

“Where many other states have introduced religious exemptions, Maine has taken a different course,” he wrote at the time. “Health care workers who have served on the front lines of a pandemic for the past 18 months are being laid off and their practices are being closed. Anything to hold on to their constitutionally protected religious beliefs. Your plight deserves our attention. “

Sharon Otterman contributed the coverage from New York.