A lone protester stands outside the US Supreme Court as it hears arguments against the Biden administration's nationwide vaccine-or-testing COVID-19 mandates, in Washington, US, Jan 7, 2022. (JONATHAN ERNST / REUTERS)

WASHINGTON / CIUDAD JUAREZ / LOS ANGELES / MOSCOW – A US appeals court on Monday said the White House could not require federal contractors to ensure that their workers are vaccinated against COVID-19 as a condition of government contracts.

The US government has contracts with thousands of companies, and courts have said the issue could affect up to 20% of US workers.

The majority opinion written by Judge Kurt Engelhardt said a broad interpretation of the law could give Biden "nearly unlimited authority to introduce requirements into federal contracts"

A panel of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals voted 2-1 to uphold a lower court decision that blocked President Joe Biden's September 2021 contractor vaccine executive order in those states after Louisiana, Indiana, and Mississippi brought suit to seek invalidation of the mandate.

The court said Biden wanted it "to ratify an exercise of proprietary authority that would permit him to unilaterally impose a healthcare decision on one-fifth of all employees in the United States. We decline to do so."

ALSO READ: Easing of regulations heralds new front in COVID-19 battle

The majority opinion written by Judge Kurt Engelhardt said a broad interpretation of the law could give Biden "nearly unlimited authority to introduce requirements into federal contracts."

Meanwhile, the US Supreme Court on Monday said COVID-era restrictions at the US-Mexico border that have prevented hundreds of thousands of migrants from seeking asylum should be kept in place for now, siding with Republicans who brought a legal challenge.

The restrictions, known as Title 42, were implemented under Republican former president Donald Trump in March 2020 at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and gave border officials the ability to rapidly expel migrants to Mexico without a chance to seek US asylum.

Separately, bivalent COVID-19 booster doses provided additional protection against COVID-19-associated emergency department or urgent care encounters and hospitalizations, according to a recent report of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

READ MORE: Key COVID-19 indicators surge again in US, straining hospitals

The CDC recommended the use of bivalent mRNA COVID-19 booster doses in September, which contain Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 sub-lineage components to better protect from the newest strains.

In addition, because of waning of monovalent vaccine-conferred immunity, effectiveness of bivalent vaccines was higher with increased time since the previous monovalent dose, according to the CDC.

Vaccine effectiveness of a bivalent booster dose after previous monovalent doses against COVID-19-associated hospitalizations was 57 percent compared with no vaccination, and 45 percent compared with previous monovalent dose vaccinated over 11 months earlier, CDC data showed.

Despite the promising numbers, vaccine uptake has been slim. Only 14 percent of eligible Americans ages 5 and older have received the Omicron-specific booster, according to a report of The Washington Post.

COVID-19 deaths and hospitalizations continue to rise in Los Angeles County, in the western US state of California, surpassing numbers seen at this time last year.

The LA County remains in the High Community Level based on the designation of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

ALSO READ: Biden says COVID-19 cases rising across US

The county witnessed a troubling doubling in the reported seven-day average of deaths per day from two weeks ago, according to the County Public Health Department.

This milestone is a somber reminder of the nearly 34,400 lives lost in LA County since the pandemic began, said the department.

Although the number of reported COVID-19 cases declined slightly in the county, they remain more than 120 percent higher than numbers observed one month ago and wastewater data reaffirms that transmission of COVID is currently high.


Russia registered 6,341 new COVID-19 cases in the past 24 hours, bringing the nationwide tally to 21,722,415, said the official monitoring and response center on Monday.
The center said the nationwide death toll increased by 50 to 393,050, and the number of recoveries grew by 5,564 to 21,115,232.