Humiliation for Biden as he WITHDRAWS his COVID vaccine mandate for private employers after Supreme Court killed it off
- Joe Biden's Department of Labor announced Tuesday it is withdrawing its extremely controversial vaccine-or-test requirement for private employers
- The rule, which would have affected companies with at least 100 workers, was blocked by the Supreme Court earlier this month
- Republican, conservative organizations and business groups immediately went after the executive order when it was announced in September
- A series of court challenges landed it in the Supreme Court, where it was defeated but the court still allowed a vaccine mandate for healthcare worker
President Joe Biden was forced to come to terms with his humiliating loss in the Supreme Court on Tuesday when his administration formally buried its highly controversial vaccine rule for private businesses with at least 100 employees.
The president's mandate faced political and legal opposition almost immediately after he announced it last fall in a desperate bid to raise the U.S. vaccination rate that plateaued over the summer.
The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is now withdrawing the rule, which required large employers to either implement a COVID vaccine requirement or force workers to submit to weekly virus testing, which it formally issued after Biden's order on November 5 of last year.
The withdrawal is effective January 26, 2022.
Meanwhile Biden faced another blow to his public image this morning when a dire new Gallup poll showed a majority of American voters do not think he's a strong leader who can get the country through a crisis.
His approval rating also hit 39 percent on Tuesday, a new low in Harvard/CAPS Harris' polling since they began tracking Biden's support in office in March of last year.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) said in the federal register that while it was withdrawing the emergency temporary standard, the rule would remain as a proposal for a permanent requirement.
'OSHA strongly encourages vaccination of workers against the continuing dangers posed by COVID-19 in the workplace,' the agency's statement added.
Joe Biden's Department of Labor announced Tuesday it is withdrawing its extremely controversial vaccine-or-test requirement for employers with at least 100 workers after the Supreme Court blocked the rule earlier this month. The president stops for ice cream during an afternoon outing in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday, January 25, 2022
OSHA 'is withdrawing the vaccination and testing emergency temporary standard issued on Nov. 5, 2021, to protect unvaccinated employees of large employers with 100 or more employees from workplace exposure to coronavirus. The withdrawal is effective January 26, 2022,' the notice on the Labor Department's website reads
The worker vaccine mandates served as a bid by the administration to increase vaccination rates after it plateaued over the summer. The current adult vaccination rate in the U.S. stands at about 74%
The coronavirus pandemic has killed more than 850,000 in the United States and the outbreak continues to weigh on the country's economy.
Biden unveiled in September several regulations aimed at increasing the U.S. adult vaccination rate, which currently stands at about 74 per cent, according to U.S. government data.
Among the most shocking was instructing Labor to issue an order through OSHA to mandate that private companies track their employees vaccination status or face fines and penalties from the government. Many were perplexed when Biden announced the initiative after he claimed several times that the administration would not enforce vaccination mandates on private businesses.
The proposed vaccine mandates immediately sparked legal challenges by conservative organizations, Republicans and several business groups claiming there were too many challenges to overcome with implementing such a rule.
'As small businesses try to recover after almost two years of significant business disruptions, the last thing they need is a mandate that would cause more business challenges,' National Federation of Independent Business executive director Karen Harned said.
The Republican National Committee lauded the 'major victory' with the reversal, calling the proposed rule 'authoritarian'
The withdrawal from the mandate, however, will allow cities and states to continue enforcing their own COVID-based rules.
Biden has continuously urged for separate businesses and states to implement voluntary vaccine measures for employees and customers.
'The Court has ruled that my administration cannot use the authority granted to it by Congress to require this measure, but that does not stop me from using my voice as President to advocate for employers to do the right thing to protect Americans' health and economy,' he said.
Fully-vaccinated Nike marketing manager Dex Briggs fired from Oregon HQ after refusing to upload vaccination status on a third party site
A long-time Nike employee was fired after refusing to supply his COVID-19 vaccination records to a third-party verification service used by the sportswear giant.
Dex Briggs, 53, claims he was terminated from his marketing manager position at Nike headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon earlier this month after a 26-year run with the company despite being fully-vaccinated against the virus and offering to show bosses his vaccination card.
Briggs, who is married with a son, says he found the company's vaccination verification process too worrying to comply with. It sees vaccination records uploaded to software created by unidentified third-party firm.
That firm then has permission to share the information with others in an effort to confirm the vaccination, which Briggs - who has previously fallen victim to identity theft - found too great a breach of his privacy to endure.
'I have my vaccination card. I'm quite willing to show you that. But I'm not willing to give my personal information to this (outside) company, and any other company they want to share it with, without even telling me who they are,' Briggs told The Oregonian.
Nike announced its vaccine mandate to employees in September. Although the Biden Administration's mandate ordering private firms with 100 or more workers, such as Nike, to order staff to get vaccinated has been struck down, companies can still choose to enact such a mandate themselves.
Briggs said when he learned of the mandate, he wasn't initially alarmed, having already received a vaccine.
'I'm already vaccinated, so that doesn't really matter,' he thought at the time, accepting that as a private company it is Nike's right to set its own vaccine policy.
However, he was frustrated when the company moved forward with the verification process without providing details about the platform that would have access to his information.
Briggs, who said both he and his wife have previously been victims of identity theft, also claims Nike wasn't willing to accept his vaccination card as proof.
'What are they trying to accomplish with this policy? That should be all that matters,' he questioned. 'Why is the policy so, I don't know, so restrictive?'
He also said he is sympathetic to his colleagues who declined the vaccines due to concerns of long-term health implications or religious objections. Nike did allow employees to apply for exemptions to the mandate however it is unclear how many were approved.
'Hardworking Americans should not be forced to choose between being vaccinated and providing for their families,' RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said in a Tuesday statement. 'The Biden administration may have surrendered in their attempt to force their 'emergency' vaccine mandate, but the fight is not over.'
'The Republican National Committee's legal team will continue to protect workers and businesses from Joe Biden's authoritarian overreach.'
The OSHA mandate for businesses with at least 100 employees was blocked by the Supreme Court earlier this month, although at the same time the court allowed a separate federal vaccine requirement for workers specifically working in healthcare facilities.
A third major vaccine rule from the Biden administration required federal government contractors to get their employees vaccinated. That was blocked by a federal judge in December and last week a U.S. judge blocked a vaccine requirement for federal employees.
Certain organizations have implemented their own mandates for employees including CVSHealth, McDonald's, Tyson Foods and Uber.
According to Upcity, 81 percent of employers require masks to be worn in the office with 83 percent asking for proof of vaccination.
However, other companies such as Starbucks and General Electric have complied with the court's recent ruling by abandoning their vaccine and testing requirements.
Starbucks, which has 90 percent of its employees currently vaccinated, said that they still encourage vaccinations and booster shots.
US cities, including NYC, have implemented their own COVID-related measures for businesses which require proof of vaccination before entering an establishment.
NYC was the first city to announce the mandate over the summer with other cities such as San Francisco and New Orleans following in its path.
In terms of statewide COVID measures, the US currently has 11 states implementing a mask mandate for indoor and public spaces with some requiring its use regardless of vaccination status.
Earlier in the pandemic, many US states required the use of a mask in indoor public spaces with many bringing the mandate back due to the surge in cases as a result of new variants including Delta and Omicron.
While courts have generally found the administration lacked the authority to require vaccination, mandates imposed by businesses, states and local governments have been upheld.
Before withdrawing the rule, many companies had already implemented vaccination-or-testing requirements to get ahead of the mandate, which was set to go into effect earlier this month before the court struck it down.
It would have impacted more than 80 million U.S. workers.
The rule, as it was written by OSHA, required business with 100 or more employees to obtain proof from their workers that they were fully vaccinated – meaning it had been two weeks past when they received their second or first jab, depending on which vaccine they received.
Pfizer and Moderna require two shots a few weeks apart while Johnson & Johnson only requires one jab. The three COVID-19 vaccinations are the only ones allowed to be administered in the U.S. under emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration.
If employees cannot or choose not to show proof of vaccination, the business would then need to require the worker to submit proof of a negative COVID test at least weekly and mask up in the workplace.
It wasn't immediately clear, but it seemed that the testing would be at the expense of the employee and not the business or government.
Case rates of COVID-19 hit all-time highs starting in December as the Omicron variant took the nation
The death-rate did not correspond with the same rate as infections as experts detailed while the new variant is much more contagious, it is not nearly as severe or deadly a case of COVID
The mandate would have affected certain organizations regardless of size including nursing homes, hospitals, and businesses that house Head Start Programs.
The mandate would also have accounted for all employees working at their specific organization unless they were working remotely or outdoors.
However, exemptions would have been granted based on medical grounds or had an accommodation under federal civil rights law.
As part of this, all cities and states would have been preempted to undergo this new mandate despite their current standing on vaccines and masks.
A violation of the mandate would have cost up to $13,653 for each with repeated offenses racking up to $136,532 per infraction.
About half of the states in the country opposed the order with several officials threatening to fight back such as Indiana and Texas who vowed to organize a lawsuit in response.
Biden’s approval rating hits a dire 39% as a majority of Americans say he’s not a strong leader and don’t think he cares about them, new polls suggest
President Joe Biden's approval rating hit another grim record on Tuesday with a new poll placing him with just 39 percent of voters' support.
Meanwhile a separate survey suggests the president has lost the faith of Americans who largely think he does not care about them and is a weak leader, both dire outcomes just a year after he took office.
Biden's job approval plummeted six points from November, according to a January Harvard CAPS/Harris survey obtained by The Hill. The 39 percentage points are the lowest he's scored in Harvard's poll since it first began collecting the data in March.
His disapproval rating has climbed to 53 percent, up two points from the previous poll.
Of those who approve of Biden's job in office, less than half say they 'strongly' support the president while most only 'somewhat' back him.
'This is a new low for President Biden as he struggles to solve a myriad of issues from the pandemic and the economy to immigration and crime that trouble the public,' said pollster Mark Penn of the survey taken January 19 and 20.
As 40-year high inflation and the enduring coronavirus pandemic continue to wreak havoc at home, the world is also looking to Biden as an increasingly aggressive Russia threatens to shake up the world order and launch a likely deadly invasion into neighboring Ukraine.
It does not appear that many Americans have faith in Biden navigating those issues, according to a survey Gallup also released on Tuesday.
Biden's drop to the 30s in terms of job approval comes week after the White House criticized a Quinnipiac poll that had the president's job approval at 33% as an 'outlier'
Respondents were asked between January 3 and 16 whether a slate of characteristics applied to Biden as president, after being given the same statements in 2020.
Of those, a whopping 63 percent indicated that Biden is not a 'strong and decisive leader.'
That's a nine-point drop from September 2020, though he still had failed to grasp a majority with only 46 percent of people surveyed indicating the same.
Among Democrats, Biden's leadership skills still early high praise with 74 percent backing the notion, though it's a steep decline from 86 percent agreeing in 2020.
He's seen his biggest loss of confidence in the area from Independents, who were critical to his 2020 presidential victory. Among that group, then-candidate Biden was thought by 45 percent to be a 'strong and decisive leader,' while only 30 percent feel the same now.
It's relatively unchanged among Republican voters, though faith in Biden's decisiveness actually climbed from six to seven points.
But in a critical blow to his public image, now less than half of Americans think the president -- who ran on his personal capabilities for compassion and empathy -- cares about them.
The greatest lost of confidence in Biden as a strong leader came from Independent voters, who were critical to his 2020 victory
In a similar blow to his public image, just 45 percent of survey respondents said Biden was 'honest and trustworthy'
Just 48 percent of respondents answered that 'cares about the needs of people like you' applies to Biden. In late 2020, the number was 55 percent.
Similarly, Biden's 'honest and trustworthy' image took a seven percentage point-blow, from 52 to 45 percent.
However the president did have a majority of Americans finding him 'likable,' with 60 percent, and 59 percent said he was 'intelligent.'
But when push comes to shove, and as relations with Eastern Europe and China chill to historic levels, just 43 percent of respondents said Biden 'displays good judgement in a crisis' and even fewer -- 38 percent -- think he 'can manage the government effectively.'
The new Gallup survey of Biden's personal traits comes at a tenuous time in American foreign policy, though at home COVID-19 cases are beginning to drop off in some places and areas that saw infections spike in a new wave late last year are finally beginning to see some relief -- while others surge.
Biden met with European world leaders on Monday in a hastily-announced video call to discuss the worsening situation between Russia and Ukraine.
Russia has already built up a force of more than 100,000 troops at the eastern border of Ukraine and has thousands stationed elsewhere as tensions escalate and concerns rise over a potential Russia invasion of Ukraine
Annual inflation hit 7% in December, the highest 12-month increase since June 1982
Russian President Vladimir Putin has stationed more than 100,000 troops at Ukraine's Eastern border, with US intelligence reports indicating that number could double in short order.
He's also made aggressive moves by Moscow greenlighting its maritime forces to conduct military exercises off the coast of Ireland next month, and British intelligence has warned Putin is reportedly looking to overthrow Ukraine's leadership in a coup attempt.
While the president has stressed a diplomatic approach coupled with the threat of severe economic consequences should Russia invade, lawmakers in Congress as well as Ukraine's leaders have urged him to act now with economic sanctions and claim doing so after the fact would be useless.
He also angered allies by indicating in a press conference last week that a 'minor incursion' by the Kremlin into Ukraine may result in lesser punishment.
Yesterday Biden ordered 8,500 US-based troops to be ready to deploy to Eastern Europe if NATO calls for them.
Covid continues to retreat across the US as cases slump 5% in a fortnight and ZERO states experience fortnightly doubling of infections
Covid appears to be continuing its retreat from the United States, with cases now down five percent nationwide over the past two weeks. The latest figures also show that, for the first time this year, no US states are seeing cases double or grow by a larger proportion in recent weeks for the first time this year.
The U.S. is now averaging 723,820 cases per day. Health experts have speculated that Omicron would peak soon, with Dr Anthony Fauci saying Sunday it was likely all US states would hit their peak by mid-February at the latest. The rapid transmission of the variant caused cases to skyrocket, but also made sure it quickly ran out of people to infect. Data from abroad, and specifically the UK and South Africa, showed that the variant peaks quickly, then falls quickly, once it take hold.
Two weeks ago, the U.S. was recording 766,939 cases per day. Last week's totals are skewed by the Martin Luther King Jr day holiday, and lagged reporting of cases throughout the week caused lower case numbers early in the week. But state-by-state charts do show many states' infection rates are consistently trending downwards.
The tri-state area - New York, New Jersey and Connecticut - became America's initial Omicron epicenter in December, but infection rates there have since gone into freefall, suggesting that predictions the variant would burn itself out quickly were correct.
Despite the slowing of cases, deaths remain on the rise. The U.S. is averaging 2,122 new daily Covid deaths, up 30 percent over the past two weeks. Deaths often lag behind case by around two weeks, sparking hopes that fatality rates could also start to plunge in the same way infections have very soon. It appears that cases peaked at 806,364 per day on January 15, meaning it is likely deaths peak in the coming days as well.
Dropping cases nationwide is also being reflected in state-by-state Covid figures. According to official data, not a single state in the U.S. has had its new daily cases double over the past two weeks. Only two weeks ago, every single state in the country had experienced cases jumping by more than 100 percent.
States that were hit the earliest by the Omicron variant are seeing the sharpest decline as well. New York and New Jersey - the neighboring states that quickly suffered massive surges last month - are both recording two-week daily case declines of nearly 70 percent as the virus appears to subside.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) made a bizarre move on Tuesday despite rising cases, halting the use of monoclonal antibody treatments developed by major pharmaceutical companies like Regeneron and Eli Lilly.
The agency notes the apparent lack of effectiveness these drugs have against the Omicron variant as the reason for the decision, even though Delta remains prevalent in the US, and responds well to the monoclonal drugs.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said earlier this month that Omicron was not causing many deaths in the U.S., and instead the lingering cases of the Delta variant were causing the most harm to Americans.
In the time since, the Omicron variant has almost totally overtaken Delta - accounting for more than 99 percent of active cases in the U.S. per CDC data.
Monoclonal antibody drugs are highly effective against the Delta variant, and the main downside of using them is their expense and the high number of medical resources needed to distribute them.
Now, recently approved antiviral pills like Pfizer's Paxlovid and Merck's molnupiravir will likely take over as the main treatments for people after they have been infected with Covid.
The Covid vaccines are also effective at preventing infection all together - especially if a person is boosted as well - and vaccinated people generally have much more mild symptoms after infection.
Official CDC data reports that 75 percent of Americans have received at least one shot of a Covid vaccine, 63 percent are fully vaccinated. Just over 25 percent of Americans have received a Covid booster shot.
In the UK, daily Covid cases have begun to steady after massive falls in recent weeks. The nation was one of the hardest struck by the Omicron variant last month, with cases surging as high as 180,000 per day on average. Cases quickly plummeted after peaking in early January.
South Africa, the first nation to suffer a massive surge of cases late last year after discovering the new variant in late November, has seen a rapid decline in cases over recent weeks as well. Cases peaked at over 23,437 new cases per day in mid-December, and are down to 3,110 as on Monday.
While U.S. appears to be beyond its peak of Covid cases, its trend downwards may not be as rapid nationwide as it is in some of its peer nations. America is a much larger country than others, and its not very densely populated. There are also long distances between individual population centers, meaning some areas will see COVID spikes much later than others.
This means that while cases will rapidly decline in individual areas, like they did in the UK and South Africa, the nationwide trends will not be as dramatic.
Omicron's surge has a clear westward trajectory, and has also seemed to move beyond the Mississippi river and into the Great Frontier.
Numbers may not appear to be dropping as dramatically in the U.S. as it did in other countries, but that is more the case of a clear east-west divide rather than the variant acting differently in America than it did elsewhere.
Only one state east of the Mississippi river is recording more than an 85 percent increase in cases over the past two weeks, Kentucky.
Every other state in the eastern portion of the nation is either reporting declining cases or smaller increases.
Twenty states are currently recording either a decline in cases over the past two weeks, or a flat zero increase. Only three are west of the Mississippi river, with Louisiana - down 28 percent - being along the river itself.
From Maine to Florida, nearly every state along the east coast is recording a decline in cases. New York and New Jersey are recording 68 percent and 69 percent decline respectively - a similar to drop to what England experienced after reaching its peak.
Other states along the coast like Pennsylvania (45 percent), Massachusetts (44 percent) and Florida (43 percent) are also reporting massive case declines over the past two weeks.
Even states out west that are experiencing rising cases are seeing the rate of daily infection increases at a lower level.
States like Montana and Wyoming that were experiencing near 200 percent increases in cases last week have seen two-week case growth fall to around 65 percent each. North Dakota - also recording near 200 percent jumps last week - is the leader in national case increases at 96 percent.
Rhode Island's long time lead as the U.S. leader in daily infection rates has finally ended, and the state has seen a rapid decline from more than 500 or every 100,000 people testing positive daily down to 260. The Ocean state has exited the top ten U.S. states in infection rate.
Kansas is now the national leader in infection rate, with 365 of every 100,000 residents testing positive for Covid everyday. The Wheat state leads a group of seven that are averaging more than 300 daily infections out of every 100,000 residents.
Three eastern states still remain among the leaders in infection rate, as some parts of the region are still at their peak of cases, or are still at the start of post-peak decline. Kentucky is recording 334 new cases per every 100,000 residents, South Carolina is logging 312, and North Carolina is at 302.
Maine (56 infections per 100,000 residents) and Maryland (76) are still the only states recording less than 100 cases per 100,000 residents, as many states still have a long way to go until cases get back to controlled levels.
Ohio is still the national leader in mortality rate, recording 1.3 deaths per every 100,000 residents every day. The Buckeye state is among eight state that are recording more than one death for every 100,000 residents every day.
The group includes some states that are recording massive declines in cases like New Jersey (1.09 deaths per 100,000 residents), New York (1.06) and Maryland (1.04), further showing how deaths can lag a few weeks behind cases.
Across the pond, the UK has seen new daily cases settle at around 90,000 per day - with the nation adding 88,447 new cases to the ledger on Monday. It is a far fall from the case peak at around 180,000 cases per day earlier this month and a surge that once looked devastating has quickly been controlled.
London, like New York City, has proved to be the national pandemic hotspot in England. The city in the southwestern region of the nation was slammed early and hard by the Omicron variant, with cases skyrocketing so quickly some feared the region would have to reenter lockdowns.
Cases in London quickly began to decline, though, and the new restrictions and overwhelming of hospitals that some experts predicted never materialized. The virus started to move northward and eastward afterwards, though, with cases declining in London and other nearby neighborhoods while the virus surged elsewhere.
Nearly every region of the UK is experiencing case declines now, though, as it appears that the Omicron variant has run its course in the country. Only a month ago, some experts feared the nation's healthcare system would be overrun, but now its fortunes have totally reversed and the leaders are even beginning the transition to post-pandemic life.
Last week, mandates put in place to combat Omicron, like work from home orders, mask mandates, vaccine checks for certain events and capacity restrictions were lifted. Requirements for travelers into the nation to test upon arrival were lifted Monday as well.