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Biden vaccine mandate imperils AU funds, Ga. lawsuit says

Published: Nov. 1, 2021 at 3:58 PM EDT|Updated: Nov. 3, 2021 at 9:33 AM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. - Augusta University plays a prominent part in a lawsuit Georgia and several other states filed in the local U.S. District Court fighting to stop President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for federal contractors.

Georgia, joined by Alabama, Idaho, Kansas, South Carolina, Utah and West Virginia, is arguing in a federal lawsuit that the requirement violates federal law.

Biden has argued that sweeping vaccine mandates will help end the deadly pandemic, but Republicans nationwide have opposed the vaccination requirements and have threatened to bring similar legal challenges.

The lawsuit filed Friday in Augusta calls Biden’ executive order “astonishing — not only for its tremendous breadth and unworkably short deadline, but also because so little care has been given to how it will work in the real world.”

Among its complaints is that the mandate applies not only to contractor employees working on federal contracts, but also any employee that may have contact with someone working on a federal contract.

The lawsuit claims that contact may be “nothing more than walking past them outside, in a parking lot.”

As an example, the lawsuit cites Augusta University, which has a portfolio of at least 45 federal government agreements and contracts totaling $17.1 million and with more than 200 AU employees working on them.

Many of these contracts concern the university’s health care research for the Department of Veterans Affairs and Department of Health and Human Services, the lawsuit states.

University employees who are not themselves working on or in connection with these contracts must also abide by the contractor mandate if they share elevators, lobbies and even parking garages with the employees who do work on government contracts, the lawsuit cotes.

It notes that Augusta University Health is Georgia’s only public academic health center, “where world-class clinicians daily perform lifesaving research and development work under federally funded agreements and contracts.”

READ THE GEORGIA LAWSUIT:

Many, if not all, of the federal agencies associated Augusta University’s contracts have already issued memorandums requiring compliance with the contractor mandate, the lawsuit notes.

In practice, if AU cannot “affirmatively determine” that employees working on federal contracts will be completely separated from the rest of the university, every employee must be fully vaccinated by Dec. 8, the lawsuit states.

If AU can’t comply, the lawsuit states, its $17.1 million budget for federal contracts is in jeopardy.

“We will not allow the Biden administration to circumvent the law or force hardworking Georgians to choose between their livelihood or this vaccine,” Republican Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia said in a statement.

The Democratic Party of Georgia called the lawsuit a “dangerous political stunt.”

The Georgia lawsuit is one of three filed Friday against the Biden administration over the mandate. In all, 18 states are involved.

The other two lawsuits include one filed by the state of Texas and another filed in U.S. District Court in Missouri by the attorneys general from Alaska, Arkansas, Iowa, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming.

The Associated Press contributed to this report