Louisiana at forefront of COVID vaccine mandate debate at Supreme Court

Greg Hilburn
Lafayette Daily Advertiser

Louisiana will be at the forefront of the national COVID-19 vaccine mandate debate this week when the U.S. Supreme Court takes up a Biden Administration requirement for healthcare workers to take the shot.

The Supreme Court will consider Friday whether President Biden’s vaccine requirements for healthcare workers in federally funded facilities and employers with more than 100 workers can take effect across the country.

Republican Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry led the lawsuit that was joined by 13 other states asking the courts to block Biden's mandate for healthcare workers.

 Early Thursday morning, hundreds of people organized by five labor unions rallied outside Cape Canaveral Space Force Station to protest the upcoming federally mandated Dec. 8 COVID-19 vaccination deadline for government contractors.

"I think this will absolutely be a litmus test for the direction of these mandates," Landry said in an interview with USA Today Network. "We continue to believe the facts are squarely on our side and that the Biden administration is acting outside its authority."

Louisiana federal Judge Terry Doughty blocked the Biden vaccine requirement for healthcare workers. His decision was upheld in December by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeal in New Orleans.

More:Louisiana federal judge blocks Biden COVID vaccine mandate for Head Start program

The same New Orleans Court blocked Biden's vaccine mandate for employers with more than 100 workers.

Landry is traveling to Washington this week with his Solicitor General Liz Murrill, who will lead the argument on the healthcare workers' case.

The court won't rule on the merits of the cases, but will likely decide whether to let the mandates move forward or keep the injunctions halting them in place until lower courts rule on the merits of the cases.

"Upholding the stays, or injunctions, would speak volumes on where these cases are headed," Landry said.

More:What we know about Judge Terry Doughty, who blocked Biden's COVID vaccine mandate and drilling ban

Doughty's ruling includes Arizona, Alabama, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah and West Virginia.

An identical injunction has also been issued by Missouri U.S. District Judge Matthew Schelp for 10 other states, though that case isn't being taken up by the Supreme Court Friday.

Doughty, who was nominated to the federal bench by former President Donald Trump in 2017 and confirmed in 2018, also blocked a vaccine mandate for Head Start workers on Saturday.

Doughty acknowledged both cases "will ultimately be decided by a higher court than this one."

"However, it is important to preserve the status quo in this case," he wrote. "The liberty interests of the unvaccinated requires nothing less."

Greg Hilburn covers state politics for the USA TODAY Network of Louisiana. Follow him on Twitter @GregHilburn1.