COVID Counterpunch

Sandia Balks at Biden’s COVID Mandate, ‘Pauses’ Forced Vaccinations

Sandia National Laboratories announced Wednesday it is “pausing enforcement” of President Biden’s COVID vaccine mandate for federal contractors. 

The move comes directly on the heels of a lawsuit filed against Sandia on behalf of hundreds of unvaccinated workers facing termination this month for refusing to get vaccinated. 

While Sandia’s policy reversal makes no mention of the specific lawsuit, the writing has been on the wall for months as courts across the country have struck down various aspects of the mandate. 

In its announcement Wednesday, Sandia wrote that “because the Executive Order requiring a vaccine mandate for federal contractors is still being litigated in the appellate courts, Sandia is pausing its enforcement of the mandate.”

A judge in December blocked the vaccine mandate for federal workers. Earlier this week, a federal judge blocked the mandate for Headstart employees. Two days ago, a judge issued an injunction that prevents the Department of Defense from punishing U.S. Navy members who refused the COVID vaccines. And later this week, the Supreme Court will hear arguments on two aspects of the mandate — one affecting businesses with 100 or more employees; the other on a rule affecting employees of certain medical facilities that receive Medicare and Medicaid funding.

Sandia told employees before Christmas that it was moving forward with the vaccination requirement as a condition of employment, but it did extend the deadline from January 04 to January 18.

To “maintain a safe on-site working environment,” the announcement states that Sandia will continue to require weekly testing of the unvaccinated and will continue to encourage people to get vaccinated. It also warned that if the executive order is upheld, the mandate will be reapplied.

“Because the legal proceedings related to the Executive Order vaccine mandate have been expedited, it is important to understand that if the order is reinstated, the mandate would apply and will be immediately enforced for all employees.”

—Sandia National Laboratories

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