Supreme Court allows New York's vaccine mandate for health workers

The U.S. Supreme Court is allowing a New York state vaccine mandate for all health care workers to stand after a legal challenge argued that it violated religious freedom.

In an order issued Monday in We The Patriots USA v. Hochul, the court allowed a ruling from a lower court — which required COVID-19 vaccination for all health care workers in the state — to stand by declining to hear the emergency request from a small group of doctors and nurses. The mandate, which included no religious exemption, went into effect in September and was upheld by the Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan in late October.

A nurse receives a dose of the coronavirus vaccine
A nurse receives a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in New York City. (Kena Betancur/AFP via Getty Images)

Three of the court’s most conservative members, Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch, dissented. “Thousands of New York health care workers face the loss of their jobs and eligibility for unemployment benefits,” Gorsuch wrote in a 14-page dissent.

There was no explanation given for the order, as is traditional with the so-called shadow docket.

The high court has previously declined to block New York City’s vaccine mandate for public school teachers as well as Indiana University’s similar mandate for students, in addition to mandates for health care workers in Maine and Massachusetts. Last month, a federal judge in Louisiana — who was nominated to the bench by former President Donald Trump — blocked President Biden’s mandate for all health care and nursing home workers from going into effect.

Nearly 800,000 Americans have died from COVID-19. According to the New York Times, the number of cases has increased 43 percent over the last 14 days, with deaths spiking by 32 percent and hospitalizations rising by 23 percent over that same period.

The White House has promised no new lockdowns, and it has urged Americans to get vaccinated and boosted.