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Photo: Ben Hasty/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images

The Biden administration on Tuesday asked a federal appeals court in Cincinnati to lift a block on a national mandate that requires companies to ensure that employees are vaccinated against COVID-19 or tested weekly.

Why it matters: The government's 52-page motion comes more than a week after a panel of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans issued a stay on the rule, writing that it "grossly exceeds [the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's] statutory authority" to regulate hazards within the workplace.

  • At least 34 lawsuits, brought by employers and Republican-controlled states, have since been moved to the Sixth Circuit Appeals Court for consolidation, per the New York Times.

What they're saying: The Biden administration defended the measure in its motion Tuesday, writing that it would "save thousands of lives and prevent hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations."

"The Fifth Circuit's stay should be lifted immediately. The court's principal rationale was that OSHA allegedly lacked statutory authority to address the grave danger of COVID-19 in the workplace. ... That rationale has no basis in the statutory text. Congress charged OSHA with addressing grave dangers in the workplace, without any carve-out for viruses or dangers that also happen to exist outside the workplace."
— Department of Justice in a filing to the Sixth Circuit Appeals Court

Details: Under the rule, companies with 100 or more workers must mandate vaccination or regular testing, with fines for violating the measure starting at an estimated $13,653 per violation.

Go deeper

Nov 30, 2021 - Health

FDA panel backs Merck's antiviral COVID pill

The Merck Cherokee Plant in Riverside, Pa. Photo: Paul Weaver/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

An FDA advisory panel on Tuesday voted 13-10 to endorse an antiviral pill developed by Merck and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics to treat adults at high risk of becoming severely ill from COVID-19, despite concerns over its effectiveness and safety.

Why it matters: Oral antiviral drugs designed to prevent or treat COVID-19 could be key pandemic-fighting tools, if proven effective, especially as new variants emerge. If authorized, the Merck drug, known as molnupiravir, would be the first treatment of its kind to be made available in the U.S.

12 hours ago - Health

CDC prepares tougher testing rules for international travelers

Travelers with their luggage arrive at a COVID-19 testing location at the airport in Los Angeles, Calif., on Nov. 23, 2021. Photo: Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday night that it is working to impose stricter testing requirements for international travelers due to the spread of the new Omicron variant.

The big picture: The new rules would require all international travelers, regardless of vaccination status, to show a negative test taken a day before their flight to the U.S. Currently, the CDC says fully vaccinated travelers are allowed to show a test taken no more than three days before their departure.

Tina Reed, author of Vitals
16 hours ago - Health

U.S. on the lookout for Omicron cases

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Laboratories across the U.S. are on the lookout for the new COVID-19 variant Omicron, which officials have said will almost inevitably be detected here.

Why it matters: The world is on high alert as scientists race to understand if the variant could be a game-changer in the pandemic. Early detection, in theory, gives officials more time to understand its characteristics and respond.