January 13, 2022
The Supreme Court’s decision on the OSHA mandate is a major setback to President Biden’s COVID strategy and will prolong the pandemic in the United States. The OSHA employer mandate was the single most effective policy for getting people vaccinated. Without a wide-reaching federal mandate, it’s unlikely the national vaccination rate of just over 60% will improve. We are way behind our peer nations. This Supreme Court’s decision makes it hard to see how we will effectively combat Omicron, and future COVID variants.
Even more concerning is that the Court is eviscerating the very ability of the federal government to protect Americans. The justices are overturning decades of precedent upholding federal public health powers. But the Court’s decision is hardly a surprise. This Supreme Court is on a mission to remake the regulatory state. The conservative majority is willfully trying to make it hard, if not impossible, for the federal government to safeguard the public’s health and safety, including worker safety, safe food and drugs, and environmental protection. COVID has taught us that the major risks Americans face, from infectious diseases to pollution, know no state boundaries. They are national problems requiring federal solutions. Especially in a crisis, states and citizens all turn to the federal government for solutions and resources. Those federal solutions have just been severely curtailed — not just for the current pandemic, but for future public health crises.