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Federal judge blocks COVID vaccine mandate for healthcare workers challenged by Jeff Landry

Paul Braun
Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry speaks at the LAGOP's rally ahead of the first Veto Session in state history. July 19, 202`1

A Louisiana-based U.S. District Court judge granted a preliminary injunction Tuesday blocking the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ COVID-19 vaccine mandate for healthcare workers, just days before the deadline for workers to receive their first shot.

Judge Terry Doughty of the Monroe division of the U.S. District Court of the Western District of Louisiana issued the ruling blocking the mandate, which would have applied to the more than 10 million U.S. healthcare workers who are employees of facilities that take money from Medicare and Medicaid. CMS estimated that roughly 2.4 million of those workers remain unvaccinated.

Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry and the attorneys general of 13 other states sued the Biden administration over the rule earlier this month.

Doughty wrote in a 34-page ruling that the mandate amounted to a violation of unvaccinated healthcare workers’ civil liberties and that the Biden administration usurped the power of Congress to make laws when it issued the sweeping workplace vaccine requirements.

“If human nature and history teach anything, it is that civil liberties face grave risks when

governments proclaim indefinite states of emergency,” Doughty said. “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 injunction will apply nationwide, except for ten states where the mandate has been blocked by a prior federal court ruling. Doughty wrote that the court considered limiting the injunction to the 14 plaintiff states, but said there were “unvaccinated healthcare workers in other states who also need protection.”

The injunction will remain in effect pending the final resolution of the case.

Landry celebrated the ruling in a press release.

“I applaud Judge Doughty for recognizing that Louisiana is likely to succeed on the merits and for delivering yet another victory for the medical freedom of Americans," Landry said. “While Joe Biden villainizes our healthcare heroes with his ‘jab or job’ edicts, I will continue to stand up to the President's bully tactics and fight for liberty.”

In earlier court filings, Landry called the CMS mandate a “statutory shell game” that over-extended the agency’s and the Biden administration’s rule-making authority in what he calls an “unlawful attempt to federalize national vaccine policy.”

He further claimed that enforcing the mandate would have exacerbated healthcare worker shortages across the country, disproportionately affecting low-income and elderly Americans.

“While our fight is far from over, I am pleased the Court granted preliminary relief against the President’s unconstitutional and immoral attack on not only our healthcare workers but also the access to healthcare services for our poor and elderly,” Landry said.

Biden administration officials have said the Department of Justice will vigorously defend the vaccine rules.

This is the second time a federal judge based in Louisiana issued a ruling blocking one of Biden’s workplace vaccine mandates.

Earlier this month, a federal appeals court in New Orleans was the first court in the nation to issue a ruling blocking a similar mandate issued by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration from taking effect until a full hearing could be held, giving Landry and the other plaintiffs another early victory in a case challenging the Biden administration’s COVID-19 policies.

Paul Braun was WRKF's Capitol Access reporter, from 2019 through 2023.