McMaster issues order barring state agencies from enforcing vaccine mandates

Published: Nov. 4, 2021 at 2:26 PM EDT|Updated: Nov. 4, 2021 at 11:52 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCSC/AP) - Gov. Henry McMaster has issued an executive order barring any state cabinet agency from issuing or enforcing any vaccine mandate.

McMaster made the announcement Thursday night, the same day the federal government announced new vaccine requirements for workers at companies with more than 100 employees as well as workers at health care facilities that treat Medicare and Medicaid patients. The government also extended a deadline for federal contractors.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration says approximately 84 million U.S. workers will have to get vaccinated against COVID-19 by Jan. 4 or get tested for the virus weekly. OSHA says companies that fail to comply could face penalties of nearly $14,000 per violation.

McMaster’s Executive Order prohibits all state agencies in his cabinet from requiring employees to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. The prohibition applies to the 19 state agencies that make up the governor’s cabinet.

According to the governor’s office, additionally, the order directs every agency in state government to immediately notify the Office of the Governor and the Office of the South Carolina Attorney General upon receiving any communication or directives from the Biden Administration concerning COVID-19 vaccination requirements.

“This directive comes as the governor and Attorney General Alan Wilson fight the Biden Administration’s vaccine mandate for federal contractors and prepare for a legal challenge to the recently announced federal OSHA vaccination requirement on employers with 100 or more employees, which would include state agencies,” the governor’s office said.

“We have been stunned at the overreach of the Biden Administration,” McMaster said earlier on Thursday. “Stunned is the word. I have never seen a president go out of bounds as much, out of bounds of the law, as this one.”

McMaster called vaccine mandates from the White House “blatantly unconstitutional” and said on Twitter they “are forcing South Carolinians to choose between a vaccine and their jobs.”

He said South Carolina joined a lawsuit led by Georgia against a federal contractor vaccine mandate. Six other states have also joined that lawsuit and he said additional states may join later.

“I presume we will have to be fighting this thing all the way to the Supreme Court on multiple fronts,” McMaster said.

The Biden administration says 70% of all adult Americans are now fully vaccinated.

The new requirements are the Biden administration’s boldest move yet to persuade reluctant Americans to finally get a vaccine that has been widely available for months -- or potentially face financial consequences. If successful, administration officials believe it will go a long way toward ending a pandemic that has killed more than 750,000 Americans.

The new rules are aimed at the approximately 65 million Americans who remain unvaccinated.

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