A U.S. district judge in Georgia, who last month blocked the Biden administration from enforcing a COVID-19 vaccine mandate aimed at government contractors, declined Friday to wade into issues surrounding contractors that on their own require workers to be inoculated.
At the same time, U.S. District Judge Stan Baker in the Southern District of Georgia, said his Dec. 7 order is clear in applying only the federal government’s vaccination order for contract workers — and not other COVID-19 safety measures such as masking and social distancing.
But the federal judge balked at a motion by the U.S. government asking the court to clarify whether it would be acceptable for private contractors to “voluntarily comply with the Task Force guidelines, including requiring their employees to be vaccinated.”
“The Court declines to wade into the murky waters presented by Defendants’ first inquiry, which is more akin to a request for an advisory opinion on the propriety of a vaguely-described hypothetical situation than a request for clarification,” Baker said in the five-page ruling Friday.
Exploring this what-if scenario is particularly unnecessary given that the case is pending appeal before the Atlanta-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, said Baker.
Most Department of Energy nuclear weapon sites paused enforcement of their COVID-19 vaccination mandates after Baker’s December injunction.
However, two DoE contractors, the National Nuclear Security Administration’s prime for the Los Alamos National Laboratory and the Environmental Management office’s operations contractor for the Savannah River Site, continued to require COVID-19 vaccinations.
In a separate lawsuit in the U.S. District Court in South Carolina, the Savannah River Site contractor, the Fluor [FLR]-led Savannah River Nuclear Solutions, has said it is a private company that can legally require vaccination as a condition of employment whether the federal government does or not.