Last week, a federal appeals court cleared the way for the Biden administration's vaccine mandate for private employers to take effect Jan. 4—but the issue will be before the Supreme Court just three days later. The court said Wednesday night that it will hold a special session Jan. 7 to consider challenges to the mandate, the Washington Post reports. The court said it will also hear arguments over a regulation from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services requiring health care workers at facilities that receive federal funding to be fully vaccinated by Jan. 4, per the Hill.
The announcement from the court, which hadn't been scheduled to hear cases until Jan. 10, is an "extraordinarily fast timeline," the AP reports. The court did not, however, grant an emergency application to block the mandates. The employer mandate, which applies to businesses with 100 or more workers and is expected to affect more than 80 million people, requires employees to be fully vaccinated or get tested for COVID weekly. It has been challenged by religious groups, businesses, and Republican governors. After rulings from lower courts, the healthcare worker mandate is currently blocked in 25 states, reports Reuters.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Wednesday night that "it is critical to protect workers with vaccination requirements and testing protocols that are urgently needed," especially with the rise of the omicron variant. Psaki said the administration is "confident in the legal authority for both policies" and the Justice Department "will vigorously defend both at the Supreme Court." (Read more vaccine mandate stories.)