PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Opponents of a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for health care workers in Maine filed an emergency appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court after being dealt another legal defeat on Friday.
The appeal was filed hours after the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston denied a request to stop the mandate from going into effect.
The Supreme Court previously has rejected challenges of vaccine requirements for New York City teachers and Indiana University staff and students.
The vaccine mandate in Maine, announced by Democratic Gov. Janet Mills, requires health care workers to get vaccinated against the coronavirus or risk losing their jobs. The state begins enforcing the mandate on Oct. 29.
Opponents tried to block the mandate, but a federal judge rejected the request earlier this week. A three-judge panel of the 1st Circuit followed with a one-sentence statement on Friday.
The Liberty Counsel, which filed the lawsuit in federal court in Maine in August, claimed to be representing more than 2,000 health care workers who don’t want to be forced to be vaccinated.
Dozens of health care workers have opted to quit, and Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston already curtailed some admissions because of an “acute shortage” of nurses.
But most health workers have been vaccinated, and state agencies vowed to work with individual hospitals and nursing homes to address individual workforce issues.
In other pandemic news in Maine:
University of Maine System students faced a Friday deadline of registering their vaccine status or requesting an exemption.
A message from Chancellor Dannel Malloy indicated students who do neither will be withdrawn from their courses without a refund as of Oct. 31, the Bangor Daily News reported.
About 91% of more than 23,000 in-person students across the system’s seven universities and law school have now shown proof of vaccination.
Saying it was the time to be “blunt and clear,” Malloy said consequences would begin to take effect for those who choose to not follow system policy.
“We can help, but these final students have to act,” Malloy said.
The number of new cases of the virus continued to slowly decline in Maine.
The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Maine did not increase over the past two weeks, going from 588.14 new cases per day on Sept. 29 to 552.20 new cases per day on Oct. 13. The seven-day rolling average of daily deaths in Maine has risen over the past two weeks from 1.86 deaths per day on Sept. 29 to 3.14 deaths per day on Oct. 13.
The AP is using data collected by Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering to measure outbreak caseloads and deaths across the United States.
The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported on Friday that there have been more than 97,000 positive cases of the virus and 1,093 deaths in the state since the start of the pandemic.
Associated Press writer Patrick Whittle contributed to this report.