New York scored a victory before the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday when the constitutionality of its COVID-19 vaccine mandate was upheld by the court.

In a 6-3 decision, the justices dismissed a challenge to New York state's vaccine mandate for healthcare workers that was ordered by Gov, Kathy Hochul in August. The executive order was resisted by dissenting health workers who sued the state, arguing that the mandate ignored the religious objections against vaccination.

This ruling is the second challenge to a vaccination mandate that originated in New York. In October, the Supreme Court rejected a petition by school workers in New York City that sought to challenge the city’s mandate for the nation’s largest public education system. Other courts have rejected lawsuits against the city, including one filed by a union for New York police officers.

Justice Neil Gorsuch penned a 14-page dissent against the decision, criticizing his fellow justices for failing to protect either the religious objections of petitioners or the economic consequences they will now face. He supported the petitioners’ concern about the use of fetal cell lines in some COVID-19 vaccines.

“Thousands of New York healthcare workers face the loss of their jobs and eligibility for unemployment benefits,” wrote Gorsuch. "These applicants are not ‘anti-vaxxers’ who object to all vaccines."

“The Free Exercise Clause protects not only the right to hold unpopular religious beliefs inwardly and secretly. It protects the right to live out those beliefs publicly," he continued.

Gorsuch was joined in his dissent by fellow conservative justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas. Alito joined with Gorsuch's explanation of his opposition, but Thomas did not specify his concerns in the case.

Few people are seen at Times Square in Manhattan on March 16, 2020  in New York City
Few people are seen at Times Square in Manhattan on March 16, 2020 in New York City AFP / Johannes EISELE

As of today, 87% of New York’s population has received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, including 70% being fully vaccinated at the state level and in New York City. However, the virus has seen enough of a resurgence that Hochul reinstituted an indoor mask mandate on Dec. 10 amid a surge in new cases and concern about the new Omicron variant.

Despite this victory before the nation’s highest court, there is a national concern that vaccine mandates may leave hospitals short staffed to handle any uptick in infections. A number of hospital chains and nonprofits, desperate to retain staff, have abandoned vaccine mandates to keep as many employers as they can.

According to New York state’s health department, 97% of the healthcare workforce is vaccinated. The rate is very high, but there was enough concern about staffing that members of the New York National Guard were activated on Dec. 1 to help make up for personnel shortages at hospitals across the state.