Amid expert warnings about the dire implications for public health and democracy, right-wing justices on the U.S. Supreme Court on Friday appeared poised\u0026nbsp;to strike down the Biden administration\u0026#039;s contested federal vaccination requirements even as the coronavirus pandemic rages across the country.\r\n\r\n\u0022Why shouldn\u0026#039;t the federal government... have a national rule that will protect workers?\u0022\r\n\r\nOral arguments in the two sets of cases before the high court came amid a tidal wave of infections driven by the ultra-contagious Omicron variant, which has resulted in tens of thousands of hospitalizations nationwide.\u0026nbsp;Each day, an average\u0026nbsp;of 1,400 individuals in the U.S. are suffering largely preventable deaths from Covid-19.\r\n\r\nAs cases rise \u0022exponentially across the nation, pushing the hospital system beyond its capacity,\u0022 justices must \u0022weigh this grim reality,\u0022\u0026nbsp;Lawrence O. Gostin, a professor at Georgetown University and director of the World Health Organization Collaborating Center on National and Global Health Law, and two co-authors\u0026nbsp;wrote\u0026nbsp;in a Washington Post op-ed published last week.\r\n\r\n\u0022The Supreme Court needs to uphold\u0022 President Joe Biden\u0026#039;s Covid-19 vaccine policies \u0022without delay,\u0022 wrote Gostin and his colleagues. \u0022Not doing so would be an affront to public health and the law.\u0022\r\n\r\nBut the high court\u0026#039;s right-wing majority on Friday signaled that they are likely to rule against Biden\u0026#039;s vaccination requirements, the New York Times reported.\r\n\r\n\u0022More absolutely unhinged behavior from the Supreme Court\u0026#039;s conservative wing, which seems ready to strike down a perfectly lawful vaccine mandate while we\u0026#039;re still in the middle of a deadly pandemic,\u0022 tweeted\u0026nbsp;Indivisible, a progressive advocacy group. \u0022They are irredeemable. We need to expand the court now.\u0022\r\n\r\nJustice Elena Kagan, one of three liberal justices, defended the Biden administration\u0026#039;s vaccine rules, arguing that they are necessary to mitigate the ongoing public health crisis.\r\n\r\n\u0022This is a pandemic in which nearly a million people have died,\u0022 said Kagan. \u0022This is the policy that is most geared to stop all this...\u0026nbsp;Why isn\u0026#039;t this necessary and grave?\u0022\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nJustice Sonia Sotomayor, added: \u0022Why shouldn\u0026#039;t the federal government—which has already decided to give OSHA the power to regulate workplace safety—have a national rule that will protect workers?\u0022\r\n\r\nAccording to Ian Millhiser, a senior correspondent at Vox and the author of Injustices: The Supreme Court\u0026#039;s History of Comforting the Comfortable and Afflicting the Afflicted, \u0022These cases ask what steps the United States can realistically take to quell the spread of a disease that has already killed\u0026nbsp;more than 820,000 Americans. But the full stakes in these cases are even higher.\u0022\r\n\r\nMillhiser wrote earlier this week:\r\n\r\n\r\nSomeone has to decide how the United States will respond to a global pandemic, and the Biden administration\u0026#039;s argument essentially boils down to a case for democracy. An elected Congress authorized the executive branch to take certain steps to encourage vaccination, and Joe Biden was elected to lead that branch. So that means that President Biden and his duly appointed subordinates get to make difficult decisions, even if some Americans don\u0026#039;t like those decisions.\r\n\r\nThe parties challenging Biden\u0026#039;s policies, meanwhile, effectively argue that the Supreme Court should decide America\u0026#039;s vaccination policy. They couch their arguments in arcane legal doctrines, with weighty-sounding names like the \u0022Major Questions Doctrine\u0022\u0026nbsp;or \u0022nondelegation,\u0022 But these doctrines are vague—so vague that they are easily manipulated by justices who disagree with the Biden administration\u0026#039;s policies and wish to conceal their desire to halt those policies behind a patina of legal reasoning.\r\n\r\n\r\nIn an effort to improve safety in the workplace—a major source of viral transmission—the Biden administration in November imposed three Covid-19 rules affecting roughly 100 million people.\r\n\r\nThe move to encourage uptake of lifesaving shots—supported by a majority of adults but fiercely opposed by disinformation-soaked GOP voters—was immediately met by a tsunami of legal challenges from business groups and Republican-led states.\r\n\r\nWithin days, right-wing judges, some of whom were appointed by former President Donald Trump, suspended their implementation.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\u0022The cases before the court Friday are technically emergency applications for immediate—but temporary—relief, not final judgements on the merits of the mandates, which are still being litigated in lower courts,\u0022 ABC News reported. \u0022A decision from the justices is expected in days or weeks, rather than months, given the expedited nature of the case and the ongoing public health emergency.\u0022\r\n\r\nThe first rule, issued by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), states that all employers with 100 or more employees must require workers to be fully inoculated or be tested weekly and wear masks on the job.\r\n\r\nIn the first case,\u0026nbsp;National Federation of Independent Business v. Department of Labor, the Supreme Court will consider the legality of this vaccine-or-test mandate for big companies.\u0026nbsp;\r\n\r\nAs SCOTUS Blog reported Thursday:\r\n\r\n\r\nSeveral challenges were filed around the country and eventually consolidated in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit, which\u0026nbsp;reinstated the mandate\u0026nbsp;after another court had put it on hold. The challengers quickly came to the Supreme Court, asking the justices to freeze the 6th Circuit\u0026#039;s ruling. In a brief\u0026nbsp;order\u0026nbsp;on Dec. 22, the justices set two of those requests for oral argument on Jan. 7 but left the 6th Circuit\u0026#039;s ruling reviving the mandate in place.\r\n\r\n\r\nA second Biden administration rule, issued by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), requires all healthcare workers at facilities that participate in Medicare and Medicaid programs to be fully inoculated unless a medical or religious exemption is obtained.\r\n\r\nIn the second case being heard by the Supreme Court, Biden v. Missouri, justices will consider the legality of this vaccine mandate for staff at medical facilities reliant on federal funding.\r\n\r\nSCOTUS Blog reported:\r\n\r\n\r\nA federal district court in Missouri put the rule on hold for 10 states, while a federal district court in Louisiana did the same for 14 other states. That prompted the Biden administration to come to the Supreme Court in December, asking the justices to put the district courts\u0026#039; rulings on hold and allow the rule to take effect nationwide while litigation continues.\r\n\r\n\r\nA third rule, the president\u0026#039;s\u0026nbsp;executive order\u0026nbsp;requiring federal contractors to have a fully vaccinated workforce, is currently blocked by courts in\u0026nbsp;Kentucky\u0026nbsp;and\u0026nbsp;Georgia\u0026nbsp;but has not yet reached the high court.\r\n\r\nAccording to Gostin and his colleagues, \u0022Lower-court rulings that blocked the rules from taking effect were fundamentally flawed... They disregarded the broad scientific consensus that Covid-19 poses a major public health threat requiring a strong emergency response; indeed, the public health emergency has only become more acute in recent weeks.\u0022\r\n\r\nThey continued:\r\n\r\n\r\nA threshold issue is whether Covid-19 is a public health emergency that warrants bypassing the usual cumbersome regulatory process. For the employer mandate, OSHA issued an emergency standard which can be implemented rapidly. For the rule involving healthcare workers, CMS waived the normal period for taking public comment into consideration before issuing final regulations, a process that can take months if not years. Both had good reason for acting swiftly.\r\n\r\nOSHA conservatively estimated its new rule would prevent more than 6,500 deaths and 250,000 hospitalizations. CMS established an impressive record showing the unique vulnerability of Medicare and Medicaid recipients, who are older, disabled, chronically ill, or have complex healthcare needs. The rule\u0026nbsp;can save hundreds of lives each\u0026nbsp;month. The science is also clear that the vaccine is the best way to ameliorate risks of Covid-19 infections, hospitalizations, and deaths. Delaying the implementation of the rules would cost lives.\r\n\r\n\r\nA core argument made by plaintiffs in these cases is that OSHA and CMS didn\u0026#039;t receive congressional authorization to protect workers, but Gostin and his two co-authors explained why \u0022that\u0026#039;s incorrect\u0022:\r\n\r\n\r\nThe Occupational Safety and Health Act empowers OSHA to mitigate \u0022grave\u0022 workplace dangers through emergency measures. OSHA has required the only effective tools known to science: vaccines, testing, and masks. Vaccination is the best tool, but OSHA allows employees to opt-out simply by testing weekly and masking. It\u0026#039;s hardly an overreach. In fact, regulating biological hazards is among OSHA\u0026#039;s primary responsibilities. The agency has a long history of regulating protections against airborne and bloodborne pathogens.\r\n\r\nLikewise, when Congress established the Medicare and Medicaid programs, it granted the secretary of health and human services authority to require facilities to meet requirements deemed \u0022necessary in the interest of the health and safety.\u0022 There are ample reasons to support the conclusion that vaccinations are necessary for the safe operation of participating facilities: the vulnerability of residents, the need for a healthy workforce, and the unique effectiveness of vaccines.\r\n\r\n\r\n\u0022There are good reasons Congress has chosen to delegate broad regulatory powers to agencies,\u0022 the trio argued.\r\n\r\n\u0022If the high court were to curb federal public health powers now, it could prove ruinous when the next crisis strikes.\u0022\r\n\r\nUnlike career agency professionals—who have the expertise and the ability to respond \u0022more quickly [and] with more flexibility... than the legislative process allows\u0022—lawmakers, who \u0022cannot foresee the broad range of risks Americans will face,\u0022 are ill-positioned to act on \u0022rapidly changing and complex scientific information needed to make wise regulatory decisions,\u0022 they wrote.\r\n\r\n\u0022The need to act rapidly is especially important in a health emergency,\u0022 they added. \u0022If the high court were to curb federal public health powers now, it could prove ruinous when the next crisis strikes.\u0022\r\n\r\nOn top of the potential epidemiological consequences associated with the impending decision, Millhiser argued in Vox that democracy itself is at stake in the Supreme Court\u0026#039;s vaccine cases.\r\n\r\n\u0022The premise of any democratic republic is that there are some decisions that must be made collectively, and that these decisions are legitimate because they are made by elected officials,\u0022 wrote Millhiser.\u0026nbsp;\r\n\r\n\u0022The justices\u0026#039;\u0026nbsp;commitment to the idea that the right to govern flows from the will of the people\u0022 will be tested when the Supreme Court hears Biden v. Missouri and National Federation of Independent Business v. Department of Labor, he continued.\r\n\r\nU.S. vaccination policy, noted Millhiser, \u0022will either be made by the man chosen by the American people, or the Supreme Court will wrest that decision away from him and give it to themselves.\u0022\r\n\r\n\u0022This is not democracy,\u0022 Millhiser argued. \u0022It is a decision to replace the judgment of men and women elected to make life-and-death decisions with the views of a few unelected lawyers.\u0022\r\n\r\nKagan concurred. \u0022Who decides?\u0022 she asked Friday. \u0022Should it be the agency full of expert policymakers, politically accountable to the president?... Or courts can decide.\u0022\r\n\r\n\u0022Courts are not politically accountable,\u0022 said Kagan. \u0022Courts have no epidemiological expertise. Why in the world would courts decide this question?\u0022\r\n\r\nThis story has been updated with comment from Indivisible.