Judge with gavel on table
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A Louisiana federal judge on Tuesday granted a preliminary injunction against the Biden administration’s mandate that says all healthcare workers involved in the Medicare or Medicaid programs must be vaccinated against COVID-19.

The ruling is a relief to nursing home operators who fear that staffing shortages could worsen if many non-vaccinated employees either walk off the job or are fired. 

The sweeping ruling came one day after a U.S. District Court judge in Missouri granted the first injunction against the federal interim rule for 10 plaintiff states. Tuesday’s judgment was on behalf of 14 additional states that had filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana.

Judge Terry A. Doughty, however, said that his ruling would encompass all states not put on pause by Monday’s ruling “due to the need for uniformity.”

Despite the fact that some nursing home operators have already imposed their own staff vaccination mandates, many industry stakeholders were cheered by Tuesday’s nationwide injunction.

Providers had been gearing up for the vaccination mandate’s Dec. 6 deadline for having first round shots completed. The final deadline for full vaccinations was set at Jan. 4.

But Doughty said the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services mandate is an overreach of authority and an incursion on individual liberties. He also cited the possibility of harm to business interests, including potential job and state tax revenue losses.

“There is no question that mandating a vaccine to 10.3 million health care workers is something that should be done by Congress, not a government agency,” Doughty wrote. 

“It is not clear that even an act of Congress mandating a vaccine would be constitutional,” he added.

The injunction will remain in place until further action is taken by his Louisiana U.S. District court, the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals or the U.S. Supreme Court, wrote Doughty. He is a Trump nominee who was confirmed by the Senate in 2018 by a 98-0 vote.

On Nov. 17, the Occupational Safety and Health Agency was forced to suspend its efforts to impose a similar staff vaccination mandate for companies with 100 or more employees.

CMS estimates that 2.4 million healthcare workers have not received a COVID-19 vaccine. Nationwide, nursing staff average a 74.3% staff vaccination rate per facility, though many buildings are still below 50%. The nursing home resident vaccination rate is 86.4% nationwide, according to data through Nov. 14, which was last updated Wednesday on CMS’s COVID-19 Nursing Home Data website.

Jump to the McKnight’s Home Care Daily for more on how this issue affects the home care industry.