Hospitals and businesses are eliminating vaccine mandates due to labor shortages and non-compliance with vaccine mandates. It seems that large hospital systems are dropping vaccine mandates as staffing shortages worsen. When a judge in Louisiana temporarily halted the Biden administration's vaccine mandates for healthcare workers in November, major hospital systems began to loosen their vaccination policies. According to the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), Nashville-based HCA, and the Dallas-based Tenet Healthcare Corp, "as well as nonprofits AdventHealth and the Cleveland Clinic are dropping the mandates."
The WSJ writes:
"Labor costs in the industry have soared, and hospitals struggled to retain enough nurses, technicians, and even janitors to handle higher hospitalizations in recent months. Vaccine mandates have been a factor constraining the supply of healthcare workers, according to hospital executives, public-health authorities, and nursing groups."
Amtrak changed course on its requirement for the vaccine on Dec. 14, a week after it issued its strict vaccine policy stance because of labor shortages. It had previously set Jan. 4 as the date the vaccine mandate would go into effect for its workers. A number of companies continue to require the vaccine "for all or some of their employees." Amtrak was originally on the list.
Several airlines adjusted their vaccine policies in the fall. However, Biden announced plans to impose stricter travel requirements on visitors flying into the U.S. in early December while leaving gaping holes in the border in terms of COVID testing because of Title 42.
A no-vax mandate website now advertises a growing number of businesses that do not require vaccines. Its tagline says, "We believe that no right is more sacred than the right of every individual to the control of their own person, free from all restraint or interference of others. This job board is for open positions at companies who align with our values."
Findapatriot.org is a website that invites businesses and services to fill out a form indicating a commitment to individual choice and liberty.
Montana and Tennessee have sought to curtail vaccine mandates entirely. Still, other states have "enacted laws that may not preclude private employers from requiring employee vaccinations but, rather, impose specific limitations on any such programs. For example, several states enacted laws that require private employers to offer expanded exemption options for employees who do not wish to be vaccinated for various reasons." The list provided below shows some of the states that have imposed limitations on blanket vaccine mandates:
- Alabama (limitations imposed by legislation effective 11/5/21, and implemented by emergency rules; website here)
- Arkansas (limitations imposed by legislation effective 1/13/22)
- Florida (limitations imposed by legislation effective 11/18/21 and implemented by emergency rules; FAQs here)
- Iowa (limitations imposed by legislation effective 10/29/21)
- Kansas (limitations imposed by legislation effective 11/23/21)
- Montana (ban imposed by legislation effective 5/7/21 and addressed by FAQs)
- North Dakota (limitations imposed by legislation effective 11/15/21)
- Tennessee (ban imposed by legislation effective 11/12/21)
- Texas (limitations imposed by executive order effective 10/11/21)
- Utah (limitations imposed by legislation effective 11/16/21)
- West Virginia (limitations imposed by legislation effective 1/20/22)
United States District Court for the Western District of Louisiana, Judge Terry Doughty, ruled that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) didn't have the authority to mandate vaccines for healthcare workers. The ruling covered 14 states, Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah, and West Virginia. Doughty said that Congress, not federal agencies, is responsible for making those decisions.
"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. The liberty interests of the unvaccinated requires nothing less."
In Missouri, U.S. District Judge Matthew Schelp followed the same injunction for 10 other states. The 10 states in that injunction are Alaska, Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming.
However, on Wednesday, a federal appeals court ruled that it was wrong for the federal court to impose a nationwide injunction. New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals kept in place the original injunction for the 14 states but lifted the nationwide injunction. That leaves about half of the states without protection from vaccine mandates.
U.S. District Judge R. Stan Baker in Savannah, Georgia, on Dec. 7 issued a nationwide preliminary injunction against the mandate, concluding that federal procurement law didn't give the administration the clear authority to impose vaccine mandates for federal contractors. On Dec. 9, the Defense Department instructed its contractors to stop enforcing President Joe Biden's Sept. 9 executive order, mandating vaccines.
The emergency regulation issued Nov. 4 by CMS would have required staff at facilities covered by the regulation to receive at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by Dec. 6 and be fully vaccinated by Jan. 4, 2022.
"Facilities covered by this regulation must establish a policy ensuring all eligible staff have received the first dose of a two-dose COVID-19 vaccine or a one-dose COVID-19 vaccine prior to providing any care, treatment, or other services by Dec. 6, 2021. All eligible staff must have received the necessary shots to be fully vaccinated – either two doses of Pfizer or Moderna or one dose of Johnson & Johnson – by Jan. 4, 2022. The regulation also provides for exemptions based on recognized medical conditions or religious beliefs, observances, or practices. Facilities must develop a similar process or plan for permitting exemptions in alignment with federal law."
CMS said on Dec. 2 that it would not impose vaccine mandates while the nationwide injunction was in place. OSHA also suspended enforcement of vaccine mandates in mid-November. New York City, however, continues to tighten its vaccine requirements with its Dec. 15 guidelines that encourage vaccination of 5 to 11-year-olds as a part of its expansion of the Key2NYC program. The city now has one of the most rigorous vaccine programs in the U.S.