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In a pair of rulings issued over Thanksgiving weekend, the Ninth Circuit blocked two vaccine mandates, one covering San Diego public school students, the other covering California prison guards.

A three-judge panel temporarily blocked a statewide vaccine mandate covering all California prison guards, which was set to go into effect in January.

The prison staff vaccine mandate arose out of a decades-long court case which placed medical care for California prisoners into the hands of a federal receiver, who made the decision to force prison employees to be vaccinated. The powerful prison guards union asked a federal judge to block the mandate, and Governor Gavin Newsom – who has largely been in favor of vaccine mandates – sided with the union in asking the judge to intervene. But the judge refused the request.

Finding California’s plan for curbing the spread of Covid-19 in state prisons woefully inadequate, a federal judge ordered the state to carry out a court-appointed receiver’s recommendation that all prison staff be vaccinated by January 12, 2022.

Under current rules, prison employees must get vaccinated or submit to regular COVID-19 testing. The Court order would however eliminate the testing alternative for everyone except those with religious or medical exemptions.

The Order was appealed to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal for the Northern District of California. Subsequently the Court of Appeal granted Appellants’ motion to stay the district court’s September 27, 2021 and October 27, 2021 orders pending appeal.

Courthouse news reported on the story, adding that “It’s certainly concerning,” said Dorit Rubinstein Reiss, a professor at UC Hastings College of the Law, of the two Ninth Circuit decisions. “The court certainly seems to undervalue the harm of the Covid 19 pandemic. We currently have several outbreaks in prisons. We have a new variant. And that doesn’t figure in? That should worry us.”

Also, a three-judge panel temporarily blocked the San Diego Unified School District’s student vaccine mandate, for as long as the district offers exceptions for pregnant students. The panel’s 2-page order said a full explanation of their decision would be issued later.

The student vaccine mandate, which was set to go into effect Monday, offered a medical exemption but no religious exemption. That’s because since 2016, California law does not allow students to apply for a personal belief exemption from vaccine mandates.

But the injunction may not last very long. On Monday afternoon, San Diego Unified filed a declaration with the court saying it had removed its pregnancy exemption – which, according to the district, no student had applied for – and asking the court to terminate its injunction.