Judge rejects Florida request to block vaccination mandate for healthcare workers

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A federal judge quickly dismissed Florida’s request to block a Biden administration requirement that workers in hospitals, nursing homes and other health care providers be vaccinated against COVID-19.

U.S. District Judge Casey Rodgers on Saturday issued an 11-page order denying a motion by Attorney General Ashley Moody for a preliminary injunction or temporary restraining order against the federal rule. Moody’s office filed a lawsuit on Wednesday challenging the rule and requested an injunction or temporary restraining order before the vaccination requirement took effect on December 6.

Rodgers, however, wrote that Florida had failed to demonstrate “irreparable harm” to justify an injunction or temporary restraining order. In part, the state argued that the rule would affect state-run facilities, such as veterans’ nursing homes, and exacerbate health worker shortages.

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“After reviewing the case, the court finds no sufficient evidence that irreparable harm will occur in the absence of a TRO (temporary restraining order) or preliminary injunction before December 6, 2021,” wrote Rodgers. “The affidavits (by state officials) in support of the motion include assertions about how various agencies and institutions anticipate that they might be affected by the mandate. In particular, affidavits express the opinion of agency heads who “feel” that they “might” lose a certain percentage or number of employees, or speculate on the consequences they would suffer “if generalized resignations were to occur ”. However, such opinions, in the absence of supporting factual evidence, remain speculative and can be considered conclusive. ”

The lawsuit came after Florida also challenged other vaccination warrants issued by the Biden administration – and was filed the same day the Republican-controlled legislature passed legislation to block such warrants .

The rule, released this month by the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, applies to hospitals, nursing homes, and other health care providers that participate in Medicare and Medicaid programs. Under the rule, healthcare workers must receive at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine by December 6 and be fully immunized by January 4, with limited exemptions for medical and religious reasons.

In denying the request for an injunction or temporary restraining order, Pensacola-based Rodgers said the state had not shown irreparable harm related to agencies losing federal money for not complying. to the vaccination requirement.

“Further, there is no evidence to suggest that the anticipated loss of federal funding due to state agency non-compliance will occur immediately on December 6, 2021, as the alleged loss of personnel is speculative, the affidavits do not take into account. account for no impact of the availability of the exemption process provided for in the Interim Final Rule, and even in the event of non-compliance, no potential termination of funding would occur on December 6, ”wrote Rodgers, who was appointed to the federal bench by former Republican President George W. Bush.

The ordinance does not end the lawsuit, which was at least the second challenge by states against compulsory health care vaccinations. Missouri, Nebraska, Arkansas, Kansas, Iowa, Wyoming, Alaska, South Dakota, North Dakota and New Hampshire met on November 10 to file a lawsuit in court Federal of Missouri. This case remains pending.

Moody’s office alleges, in part, that the federal agency known as CMS exceeded its legal authority in issuing the requirement and failed to follow proper procedures, such as state consultation and notification. Further, the lawsuit argues that the requirement is “arbitrary and capricious”. Much of the lawsuit is based on alleged violations of federal law on administrative procedure.

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“For starters, CMS does not have the authority to issue an industry-wide vaccination warrant,” the lawsuit said. “The laws on which it relies do not give it such broad authority. In fact, CMS is prohibited from exercising this level of control over the healthcare industry.

The requirement is expected to affect hundreds of private hospitals, nursing homes, and other providers in Florida, in addition to state agencies that provide health services. State and industry officials have repeatedly voiced concerns about staff shortages.

But announcing the regulation this month, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services said it will protect healthcare workers and patients as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.

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“Ensuring the safety and protection of patients from COVID-19 has been at the center of our efforts to combat the pandemic and the ever-changing challenges we face,” said Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, administrator of the federal agency , in a statement prepared at the time “Today’s action addresses the risk of unvaccinated health workers to patient safety and ensures stability and consistency across the health system of the countries to strengthen the health of the people and providers who care for them.

Florida has also filed lawsuits challenging the Biden administration’s vaccination requirements for employees of federal contractors and employees of companies with 100 or more workers. The Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced on Wednesday that the requirement for companies with 100 or more workers is suspended while legal challenges unfold.

In a special legislative session, state lawmakers on Wednesday approved the $ 5 million grant that Moody’s office could use, at least in part, to fight federal immunization mandates. Governor Ron DeSantis on Thursday signed a bill (HB 1B) that includes money.


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