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Utah joins fourth lawsuit against Biden administration vaccine-or-test mandates

New complaint challenges mask, vaccine requirements for Head Start programs

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Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes, a Republican, answers a question.

Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes is pictured during a political debate in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

Utah has joined another multistate lawsuit against the Biden administration’s COVID-19 mandates, this time over requirements that children in Head Start programs wear masks and staff and volunteers be vaccinated.

The 24 Republican-led states claim that the Head Start mandate is not only beyond the executive branch’s authority, contrary to law, and arbitrary and capricious, but it also violates several federal laws and the Constitution.

“Forcing masks on 2-year-olds and vaccines on Head Start teachers will cost jobs and impede child development,” Attorney General Sean Reyes said in a statement. “Not only is the Head Start mandate unlawful, but it will deprive low-income families and rural communities in Utah of these vital services.”   

Head Start provides much needed resources to underserved children and their families. The program provides early childhood education and resources, including diapers, to families.

The forced vaccination of teachers, contractors and volunteers in Head Start programs by Jan. 31 will cost jobs and programming, according to Reyes.

President Joe Biden included the requirements for Head Start and Early Head Start programs as part of his six-point plan to help ensure the safety of students, families and their communities. He charged the Department of Health and Human Services with implementing the rules.

“This action will help more schools and early childhood centers safely remain open and give comfort to the many parents that rely on them every day to keep their children safe,” according to the White House.

The Department of Defense operates 160 K-12 schools for students from military families across the U.S. and abroad, and the Department of the Interior operates 53 schools through the Bureau of Indian Education in the U.S. on and off tribal lands.

Those schools and programs serve more than 1 million children each year and employ nearly 300,000 staff.

Utah is now involved in four lawsuits against Biden’s COVID-19 vaccine mandates. The others challenge vaccine requirements for businesses with 100 or more employees, federal contractors, and health care professionals who work with Medicare and Medicaid.

The lawsuit targeting the Occupational Safety and Health Administration vaccine-or-test rule for businesses was put on hold in the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals but was later consolidated with other complaints and moved to the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, which lifted the nationwide stay.

Utah was among 27 states, businesses and religious organizations that filed an appeal of the 6th Circuit’s decision in the U.S. Supreme Court.

“We remain confident that the court will agree that the mandate is unconstitutional federal overreach,” Reyes said in a statement, adding Utah is not subject to the vaccine mandate because the state has not adopted the OSHA rule.

Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who has jurisdiction over the appeals court that made the ruling, asked the Biden administration for a response to the states’ appeal by Dec. 30. He could refer the issue to the whole court.

Late Wednesday, the Supreme Court announced it will hold a special hearing next month on Biden’s vaccine rules for businesses and health care workers, according to the Washington Post. Both cases will be heard on Jan. 7, the Friday before the court resumes its regular schedule for oral arguments.