Employer mandate blocked
Today, the Supreme Court blocked the Biden administration’s enforcement of its vaccine-or testing mandate for large employers. The move was a huge blow to a core part of the president’s plan to get the virus under control.
Employer mandates required workers to have vaccinated or wear masks. Workers also had to be tested every week. Some workers, such as those with religious objections or who work exclusively outdoors, were granted exceptions.
The Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, had issued the mandate in November. It was expected that 22 million people would get vaccinated and 250,000 hospitalizations could be prevented.
Parts of the mandate were scheduled to go into effect Monday. My colleague Adam Liptak reports on the court’s decision to block the administration from enforcing rules. It was a 6-3 vote.
Although the Supreme Court has upheld state vaccine mandates in the past, this case was unique because it raised the question of whether Congress had authorized OSHA’s establishment of the requirements.
“Permitting OSHA to regulate the hazards of daily life — simply because most Americans have jobs and face those same risks while on the clock — would significantly expand OSHA’s regulatory authority without clear congressional authorization,” the majority opinion said.
The majority added that more targeted regulations may be permissible, suggesting that OSHA could “regulate risks associated with working in particularly crowded or cramped environments.”
The three dissenting justices all agreed that the main issue in the case was the institutional competence to address health care crises.
“Who decides how much protection, and of what kind, American workers need from Covid-19?” they asked. “An agency with expertise in workplace health and safety, acting as Congress and the president authorized? Or a court, lacking any knowledge of how to safeguard workplaces, and insulated from responsibility for any damage it causes?”
They wrote that OSHA would be wiser than ignoring it. “Today, we are not wise.”
The court however allowed a less severe mandate to proceed. It requires vaccinations for health workers in facilities that receive federal money. The administration stated that it would affect more 17 million workers. The vote in the case regarding health care was 5 to 4, with Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. joining Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh to form a majority of liberal justices.
It’s time for a facelift
Many experts are saying that it’s time to upgrade your mask, because certain types of face coverings just don’t cut it in the age of Omicron.
Cloth masks, which many people wore during the pandemic, were intended to be temporary solutions. They are made from woven materials, which trap large droplets but can also capture smaller aerosol particles that may contain the virus.
Instead, experts recommend N95 masks — the gold standard — which are made of synthetic materials that are much better at capturing the virus. This Times interactive demonstrates that the N95 masks have an additional feature: an electrostatic charging that attracts and captures particles. Similar masks (KN95 masks) are available, which are manufactured according to Chinese standards.
Numerous studies have shown that N95 masks provide better protection than surgical or cloth masks. A properly fitted N95 face mask can reduce transmission by up to 95 percent (hence its name). Here are some tips to optimize fit. Masks with backs-of-the head loops tend not to fit as snugly as masks with ear loops.
But what about those blue surgical faces? Experts warn that they can become loose around the edges and allow aerosols to leak in. You can make your mask fit better by using the knot-and tuck technique. Experts recommend wearing two surgical masks to increase your protection.
Many Americans believe that finding a new mask is the most difficult thing about upgrading their face.
Many pharmacies and big-box stores can’t keep superior masks in stock and N95 masks offered on sites like Amazon can be counterfeit or poorly made. The Wirecutter, The Times’s companion review site, recommends these sites for legitimate N95 and KN95 masks.
The Coronavirus Pandemic – Key Facts to Know
Covid and Pregnancy
Researchers from Scotland found that pregnant women infected with Covid were more likely than uninfected women to give birth during the pandemic.
The risk of losing a baby by stillbirth or during the first months of life was highest for women who gave birth within four weeks of the onset and spread of Covid infections: 22.6 deaths per 1000 births. That’s four times the overall rate in Scotland. Researchers found that all deaths occurred in pregnancies involving unvaccinated women.
“Quite strikingly, no baby deaths occurred in women who had SARS-CoV-2 and were vaccinated,” said Dr. Sarah J. Stock, the paper’s first author, a maternal-fetal medicine specialist at the University of Edinburgh Usher Institute in Exeter.
What else we’re following
What you’re doing
Me and my parents still haven’t caught the virus, partially due to the fact that I am the one who leaves home to be in social contexts (the subway, for instance, and always with an N95 mask). It’s extremely frustrating to be an 18-year old first-year college student. Only two of my new classmates have seen me unmasked. Since there aren’t any outside-class events, it makes it harder for a not-so-extroverted girl to bond with others. But, not all is bad. Those two people who saw my face are now my best friends!
— Rita Neves, Lisbon
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Source: NY Times