Although the vaccination mandate was supposed be in effect by January 12, but an appeals court stay prevents enforcement from taking place until March

Friday’s temporary blockade by a federal appeals court ruled that all California prisoners must be vaccinated to the coronavirus, or have a religious exemption.

A panel from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals granted a request to stay September’s lower court order pending appeal. The Dec. 13 deadline was set for opening briefs, which expedited the hearing process.

Although the vaccination mandate was supposed be in effect by January 12, the appellate court stop blocks enforcement until March, when the appeal hearing is scheduled.

After a 2005 federal judge ruled that California was not providing adequate medical care for prisoners, the judge who issued the vaccination order followed the recommendations of a court-appointed receiver.

U.S. District Judge Jonigar also required COVID-19 shots to be given to prison workers. He also required exemptions or vaccinations for inmates who wish in-person visits or work outside of prisons, such as inmate firefighters.

Don Specter, director at the non-profit Prison Law Office, said that the stay “puts both prison staff and incarcerated populations at greater risk of infected.” He also stated that the stay is a result of a long-running lawsuit involving inmates over conditions in state prisons.

The governor and the state’s prison agency opposed the mandate. Gavin Newsom opposed the mandate, even though his administration had previously ordered vaccinations and testing for all state employees, correctional staff included.

California Correctional Peace Officers Association, a politically powerful association, had claimed that the mandate could lead to staff shortages if employees refused to comply.

The governor’s office and corrections officials were not immediately reached for comment regarding Friday’s stay.

The original vaccination order was issued to prevent another COVID-19 epidemic like the one that claimed 28 lives and injured a correction officer at San Quentin State Prison.

Tigar stated that once the virus has entered a facility, it can be very difficult to contain. The predominant route it takes to enter a prison is through infected personnel.

According to statistics from California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, more than 50,000 state prison inmates have been diagnosed with COVID-19. At least 242 of them have also died.