vaccine

A federal judge appointed by then Republican President George W. Bush quickly rejected Florida’s request to block a Biden administration requirement that workers at hospitals, nursing homes and other health care providers be vaccinated against COVID-19.

U.S. District Judge M. Casey Rodgers issued an 11-page order Saturday denying a motion by Attorney General Ashley Moody for a preliminary injunction or temporary restraining order (TRO) against the federal rule. Moody’s office filed a lawsuit last Wednesday challenging the rule, contending, in part, that it would affect state-run facilities – such as veterans' nursing homes – and exacerbate health care staffing shortages.

Rodgers, however, wrote that Florida had not shown “irreparable harm” to justify an injunction or TRO prior to Dec. 6, 2021, when Biden's vaccination requirements go into effect.

Rodgers also wrote that “The affidavits (of state officials) in support of the motion include assertions of how the various agencies and institutions anticipate they may be adversely impacted by the mandate. In particular, the affidavits express opinions of agency heads who ‘estimate’ that they ‘may’ lose a certain percentage or a number of employees, or speculate as to the consequences they will suffer ‘if widespread resignations were to occur.’ However, such opinions, absent supporting factual evidence, remain speculative and may be disregarded as conclusory.”

The lawsuit came after Florida challenged other vaccination mandates issued by the Biden administration – and was filed the same day of a special session in Tallahassee, when the Republican-controlled Legislature passed a law designed to block such mandates.

Also on Wednesday, lawmakers approved providing $5 million for Moody’s office to use, at least in part, to fight federal vaccination mandates.

The rule, issued 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, health care workers are required to receive at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine by Dec. 6 and be fully vaccinated by Jan. 4, 2022, with limited exemptions for medical and religious reasons.

The judge’s order does not end the lawsuit, which was at least the second challenge launched by states against the health care vaccination requirement. Missouri, Nebraska, Arkansas, Kansas, Iowa, Wyoming, Alaska, South Dakota, North Dakota and New Hampshire joined together Nov. 10 to file a lawsuit in federal court in Missouri. That case remains pending.

Florida also has filed lawsuits challenging Biden administration vaccination requirements for employees of federal contractors and employees of businesses with 100 or more workers. The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced last Wednesday that the requirement for businesses with 100 or more workers is on hold while legal challenges play out.