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APHA criticizes Supreme Court ruling’s “disturbing impact” in fight against COVID

Date: Jan 13 2022

Contact: Media Relations, 202-777-3913 

Statement from APHA Executive Director Georges C. Benjamin, MD

Today’s split decision by the Supreme Court will have a profound, longstanding and disturbing impact not only on vaccine and testing mandates but possibly the death and hospitalization toll of COVID-19 itself.

The Supreme Court considered two COVID-19 related requirements by federal agencies and whether they exceeded the agencies’ authority. In what many may consider a perplexing move, the high court rightly upheld a Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services rule to require vaccinations for health care workers at facilities that receive Medicare or Medicaid funding. But the court wrongly shot down an Occupational Safety and Health rule, known as the Emergency Temporary Standard.

The court found the directive for CMS staff as well as providers and suppliers within the authority of the Secretary of Health and Human Services. But it overturned the OSHA rule that requires companies with 100 or more employees to ensure their employees are vaccinated against COVID or at least wear face coverings and get regularly tested if not vaccinated. 

The high court’s action in the OSHA case flies in the face of what this country needs to protect its workers and their families and communities during this devastating pandemic.

The American Public Health Association and many other health organizations have strongly supported the OSHA rule as an essential protection for workers, and also as a profoundly important measure to help overcome longstanding health disparities.

Yet as the court considered the OSHA case, it failed to acknowledge that the Biden administration’s vaccine rule for large companies is based on the latest scientific evidence and would prevent thousands of hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19.

The public health community continually urges everyone to get vaccinated because that is the most effective way to overcome COVID-19. The OSHA rule was an integral part of that scientific strategy, only to be upended by the Supreme Court. 

This is a significant setback in our fight against the pandemic, and we strongly encourage the business community to follow the science and implement the spirit of the OSHA emergency temporary standard themselves to protect their workers.


The American Public Health Association champions the health of all people and all communities. We are the only organization that combines a nearly 150-year perspective, a broad-based member community and the ability to influence federal policy to improve the public’s health. Learn more at