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President Biden delivers remarks on the Omicron COVID-19 variant at the White House on Nov. 29. Photo: Anna Moneymaker via Getty Images

The Biden administration was temporarily blocked from enforcing COVID-19 vaccine mandates for millions of workers by federal judges in two states on Tuesday.

The big picture: The orders, by federal judges in Kentucky and Louisiana, come one day after a federal judge in Missouri halted the mandate, which has a Jan. 4 deadline, in 10 states.

  • The preliminary injunction of U.S. District Judge Terry Doughty in Monroe, Louisiana, temporarily prevents the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services from enforcing its vaccine mandate for health care workers until legal challenges have concluded.
  • The ruling in the case brought by Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry (R) and joined by attorneys general in 13 other states, applies in all states except for the 10 already affected by the Missouri order.

Meanwhile, U.S. District Judge Gregory Van Tatenhove issued a similar ruling in Frankfort, Kentucky, which temporarily prevents the enforcement of a vaccine mandate clause in new government contracts, per Reuters.

  • This ruling affects the states of Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee, which challenged the requirement in a lawsuit.

What they're saying: Doughty wrote in Tuesday's opinion that the Biden administration does not have the authority to bypass Congress in this case.

  • "If the executive branch is allowed to usurp the power of the legislative branch to make laws, two of the three powers conferred by our Constitution would be in the same hands," he wrote.
  • "If human nature and history teach anything, it is that civil liberties face grave risks when governments proclaim indefinite states of emergency."
  • "During a pandemic such as this one, it is even more important to safeguard the separation of powers set forth in our Constitution to avoid erosion of our liberties," he added.

What to watch: An appeal of Doughty's ruling would head to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, which affirmed a lower court decision to block President Biden's vaccine mandate for businesses with more than 100 workers.

  • The Justice Department declined to comment.

Editor's note: This article has been updated to include details of the Kentucky ruling.

Go deeper

Jan 15, 2022 - Health

Experts warn of more COVID-19 variants after Omicron

Three COVID-19 testing companies place testing locations outside Grand Central Terminal on Jan. 14 in New York City. Photo: Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images

Experts are warning that subsequent COVID-19 variants are likely to come after Omicron, AP reports.

Why it matters: The warnings come as there's no guarantee that subsequent variants "will cause milder illness or that existing vaccines will work against them," underscoring the need for widespread vaccination, AP writes.

Updated 4 hours ago - Energy & Environment

Bomb cyclone prompts blizzard warnings from Virginia to Maine

Computer model projection showing the intense storm off of Cape Cod on Jan 29, 2022, with heavy snow and strong winds lashing the coastline. (Weatherbell.com)

Blizzard warnings are in effect for 11 million people from coastal Virginia to eastern Maine as a historic winter storm is set to slam the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast beginning Friday.

Why it matters: The storm will bring hazards ranging from zero visibility amid hurricane force wind gusts and heavy snow, to coastal flooding that will erode vulnerable beaches and threaten property from the Jersey shore to coastal Massachusetts.

Updated 5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

  1. Health: Contact tracing fizzles across America — New clues emerge on long COVID — Omicron is finally burning out — It's very difficult to get access to antiviral COVID treatments — Axios-Ipsos poll: Omicron's big numbersAnother wave of death — FDA limits use of Regeneron and Lilly antibody treatments.
  2. Vaccines: Pfizer begins clinical trial for Omicron-specific vaccine — The shifting definition of fully vaccinated.
  3. Politics: Virginia AG says public colleges can't mandate COVID vaccines —Alaska governor joins Texas lawsuit over National Guard vaccine mandate — Navy discharges 45 sailors for refusing vaccine — Spotify to remove Neil Young's music after his Joe Rogan ultimatum — White House: 60M households have ordered free COVID-19 rapid tests.
  4. World: U.K. to lift travel testing requirement for fully vaccinated — Beijing Olympic Committee lowers testing threshold ahead of Games.
  5. Variant tracker