PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — A group of Rhode Island health care workers is again asking a federal judge to block the state's requirement that people working in the medical profession be fully vaccinated against the coronavirus.
A lawyer for eight people went before a federal judge on Friday seeking a preliminary injunction barring the state from enforcing the vaccine mandate, arguing that the state must provide a religious exemption if it offers a medical exemption, The Providence Journal reported.
Lawyer Joseph Larisa Jr. said at least 365 Rhode Island health care workers are exempted on medical grounds and can continue to work while wearing N95 masks and submitting to twice-weekly testing.
The same option should be offered to people seeking religious exemptions.
“If you grant one, you need to grant the other,” Larisa said.
Assistant Attorney General Michael W. Field told the judge that a federal appeals court has already upheld a lower court ruling refusing to block a similar vaccination requirement in Maine, and the U.S. Supreme Court let the appeals court ruling stand.
He said the mandate is intended to protect vulnerable patients.
The judge did not immediately rule.
The state regulation, enacted Aug. 17, required that health care workers be vaccinated by Oct. 1.
The state’s mandate applies to workers in state-run and state-licensed health care facilities. Those who don’t comply risk losing their licenses to work in the state.
Some health care workers had previously challenged the mandate's lack of a religious exemption. But the same federal judge in September refused to issue a temporary restraining order blocking the state from enforcing the mandate, saying that the workers had not demonstrated a likelihood of success on the merits.