Two officials fighting the Biden Administration’s covid-19 vaccine and testing mandates for employers and health care facilities before the Supreme Court ironically tested positive for covid-19 just before their scheduled court date, which forced them to argue their cases remotely on Friday. In other situations, that might be a sign from life that you should reconsider your ideas. However, that’s unlikely to happen here.
Ohio solicitor general Benjamin Flowers and Louisiana solicitor general Liz Murrill made their arguments to the court by phone on Friday, Reuters reported. Flowers got covid-19 in late December and has since recovered but tested positive on a PCR test on Thursday. Murrill, meanwhile, didn’t explicitly confirm she had covid-19 but said she would be arguing remotely “in accordance with COVID protocols,” according to the outlet.
Since the Supreme Court resumed in-person arguments in October, it has issued guidance requiring any attorney who tests positive for the virus to make their cases over the phone.
“Ben who is vaccinated and boosted, tested positive for COVID-19 after Christmas. His symptoms were exceptionally mild and he has since fully recovered,” Flowers’ office said in a statement. “The Court required a PCR test yesterday which detected the virus so for that reason he is arguing remotely.”
Although Flowers and Murrill argued remotely, other lawyers involved in the case did present before the court. The Supreme Court heard arguments in two separate cases on Friday. One protests the government’s vaccine and testing mandate for employers while the other seeks to block a vaccine mandate for certain health care workers.
Flowers and Murrill are part of a group of states and businesses, among others, that are fighting the Biden Administration’s requirement that businesses with 100 or more employees require their workers to be vaccinated or get tested for covid-19 weekly. Employees who aren’t vaccinated will have to pay the costs of getting tested weekly out of their own pockets.
The rule was issued by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, in November and was scheduled to go into effect on Jan. 4. Employers be fined up to $14,000 for every employee who is not in compliance. The Biden Administration has said the requirement will affect more than 80 million workers in the private sector.
In the case concerning health care workers, Republican-led states are pushing back against a requirement that employees in facilities that receive Medicare and Medicaid funding be vaccinated, which is estimated to affect around 50,000 providers and 17 million individuals around the country. Notably, while the states suing operate some of the facilities that the rule will affect, neither the facilities nor the workers implicated have challenged the rule.