Lawsuits & judges' rulings over Biden COVID vaccine rules are piling up. Here's a breakdown

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New federal COVID-19 vaccine and testing requirements from President Joe Biden's administration were set to go into effect Jan. 4, but several have been at least temporarily blocked by a series of lawsuits across the nation.

Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron was a party to several of the lawsuits challenging the new mandates as unconstitutional, including two in which courts issued injunctions this week to prevent them from being enforced.

Here is a rundown of the current status of these vaccine and testing mandates and the lawsuits attempting to stop them:

What are Biden's vaccine rules?

The Biden administration issued separate federal rules mandating different types of workers to be either fully vaccinated or regularly tested.

First, all federal contractors would be required to have their employees fully vaccinated by Jan. 4.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services issued an emergency regulation that would require all staff at medical providers serving patients in the federal programs to receive at least one dose of the vaccine by Dec. 6 and be fully vaccinated by Jan. 4.

If implemented, the mandate would cover more than 17 million health care workers.

More: 20 questions, answers on the new COVID-19 vaccine rules for workers

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration also issued a new rule requiring workers at companies and organizations with more than 100 employees to either be fully vaccinated by Jan. 4 or face regular testing going forward.

This OSHA rule would apply to an estimated 80 million workers, with companies facing a potential $14,000 penalty per violation.

Biden also issued a mandate for nearly 4 million direct federal employees to be fully vaccinated by last Monday that has not been blocked by the courts, with 95% complying by that date.

What lawsuits are challenging them?

Several lawsuits have been filed around the country to block the vaccine mandate for federal contractors, but the first case to result in an injunction occurred Tuesday in Kentucky.

U.S. District Judge Gregory Van Tatenhove of Kentucky's Eastern District issued a preliminary injunction to temporarily block the mandate on federal contractors in Kentucky, Tennessee and Ohio, the three states whose attorneys general filed the lawsuit last month.

Attorney General Daniel Cameron spoke to the interim Joint Committee on State and Local  Government about the Kentucky Supreme Court's COVID-19 ruling on Sept. 1, 2021.
Attorney General Daniel Cameron spoke to the interim Joint Committee on State and Local Government about the Kentucky Supreme Court's COVID-19 ruling on Sept. 1, 2021.

As for the vaccine mandate of health care workers, a nationwide preliminary injunction was also issued Tuesday by a federal judge in Louisiana, following a ruling a day earlier from another federal judge that blocked it in only 10 states.

The lawsuit challenging the mandate on health care workers that led to the nationwide injunction was led by Louisiana's attorney general and joined by attorneys general of 13 other states, including Cameron in Kentucky.

Earlier in November, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals also issued a nationwide injunction on the OSHA vaccine and testing rule affecting businesses with more than 100 workers.

Why are the rules being challenged?

While the Biden administration has argued these rules will save thousands of lives and hundreds of thousands from hospitalization — in addition to encouraging millions to reenter the workforce with safer conditions — the lawsuits argue this mandate attempts to achieve those goals through unconstitutional means.

Several courts — including the two judges issuing injunctions Tuesday — have stated the Biden administration does not have the authority to bypass Congress by issuing such mandates.

In his motion to block the mandate on federal contractors, Cameron argued it would create workforce and budget issues for local jails in Boone, Laurel and Grayson counties that have federal contracts to handle federal prisoners, as many staff there remain unvaccinated.

What is next for the rules and lawsuits?

Each of the court rulings blocking Biden administration vaccine and testing rules are likely to be appealed all the way to the Supreme Court.

As the issues in these cases are litigated, the injunctions are expected to remain in place and the mandates will not be enforceable.

Even in the absence of these federal rules being in effect, Louisville's largest hospitals and several hospital systems throughout Kentucky have already implemented their own vaccine orders to employees, including U of L Health, Baptist Health and Norton Healthcare.

In anticipation of the OSHA rule going into effect and the expectation that it would apply to state and local governments in Kentucky, Gov. Andy Beshear said in November he was "putting together the apparatus" for state workers who are not fully vaccinated by Jan. 4 to be tested weekly — just as Department of Corrections and state health facility workers have been required to do for much of this year.

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This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: Biden vaccine mandate: What to know about the lawsuits, rulings in KY