WASHINGTON — Ohio’s solicitor general, Ben Flowers, participated in Supreme Court oral arguments about the Biden administration’s vaccine mandates remotely on Friday after testing positive for Covid.
Flowers tested positive after Christmas last week, Ohio’s attorney general’s office confirmed to NBC News. He had been vaccinated and boosted against the disease.
“His symptoms were exceptionally mild and he has since fully recovered,” press secretary Steve Irwin said.
The Supreme Court had required participants to take a PCR test Thursday, which detected the virus in Flowers, Irwin said, “so for that reason, he is arguing remotely.”
Louisiana Solicitor General Liz Murrill also made remote arguments before the court against the mandates on Friday “in accordance with Covid protocols,” according to a statement from her office, but the statement did not elaborate further. Reuters reported earlier Friday on the solicitors general making the remote arguments.
The justices are meeting in an unusual session Friday to hear arguments on two Biden administration policies that seek to curb the spread of Covid in U.S. workplaces.
The court is considering whether the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has the legal power to require that businesses with 100 or more employees ensure that those employees are vaccinated or that unvaccinated workers wear masks and show negative Covid test results at least once a week. Employees who work at home, alone or outdoors are exempt.
Flowers, Yost and attorneys from 26 other states recently wrote in a brief that Covid “is not (for most employees) an occupational danger that OSHA may regulate” and “does not present a ‘grave’ danger for many employees subject to the mandate.”
The arguments before the court come as the highly transmissible omicron variant has swept rapidly across the country. Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said in an interview Friday on NBC’s “TODAY” show that the number of cases is rising faster than the number of hospitalizations.
“I don’t believe we’ve seen the peak yet here in the United States,” she said.