An employee helps install a traction motor on the truck of a General Electric Evolution Series Tier 4 diesel locomotive at the GE Manufacturing Solutions facility in Fort Worth, Texas.
Luke Sharret | Bloomberg | Getty Images
General Electric suspended its Covid vaccine and testing requirements on Friday after the Supreme Court blocked the Biden administration’s mandate, a company spokesman told CNBC.
GE, which had 174,000 employees at the end of 2020, has encouraged its employees to get vaccinated, the spokesman said.
The conservative majority of the Supreme Court in a 6-3 decision, called the Biden administration’s requirements a “blunt instrument” that “makes no distinctions by industry or risk of exposure to Covid-19.”
In a statement following the court decision, President Joe Biden urged companies to voluntarily implement the vaccination and testing rules.
“The court has ruled that my administration cannot use the authority granted to it by Congress to require this action,” Biden said. “But that doesn’t stop me from using my voice as president to advocate for employers to do the right thing to protect the health and economy of Americans.”
Labor Secretary Marty Walsh has vowed to use the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s existing power to hold companies accountable for protecting workers from Covid.
“We urge all employers to require workers to be vaccinated or tested weekly to most effectively combat this deadly virus in the workplace,” Walsh said in a statement Thursday. “Employers are responsible for the safety of their workers in the workplace.”
The American Medical Association, one of the largest medical associations in the US, contradicted that the Supreme Court blocked “one of the most effective tools in the fight against further transmission and death from this aggressive virus”.
“Workplace transmission has been an important factor in the spread of Covid-19,” said AMA President Dr. Gerald Harmon. “More than ever, workers in all settings across the country need sound, evidence-based protection from Covid-19 infection, hospitalization and death.”
Harmon urged companies to protect their workers from the disease. A number of large companies – including Citigroup, Nike and Columbia Sportswear – have announced plans to lay off unvaccinated workers.
The Covid-Omicron variant is driving new infections to unprecedented levels. The US is reporting an average of more than 786,000 new infections each day, a 29% increase from the previous week, according to a CNBC analysis of data from Johns Hopkins University.
Additionally, based on federal data going back to the summer of 2020, hospitalizations are at a pandemic high. About 151,000 Americans were in hospitals with Covid as of Friday, a seven-day moving average of health and social services data shows, up 23%. from a week earlier. That number includes both patients who have been admitted to hospital due to Covid and those who have tested positive after admission.
— CNBC’s Nate Rattner contributed to this report