Florida calls for healthcare workers’ immunization mandate to be suspended as cases rise


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Saying it’s among ‘unprotected’ states, Florida is pushing full federal appeals court to at least temporarily block a Biden administration rule that would require healthcare workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

David Costello, a state assistant attorney general, filed a document Wednesday afternoon with the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals indicating a new directive from the Biden administration regarding the advancement of the vaccination requirement. The directive would apply to Florida and other states that have not received preliminary injunctions against the requirement.

The U.S. Supreme Court is due to hear arguments Jan. 7 in cases from other parts of the country over the legality of the requirement, but it’s unclear when the justices will rule.

Pensacola-based U.S. District Judge Casey Rodgers last month dismissed Florida’s request for a preliminary injunction against the rule, and a panel of the 11th U.S. Court of Appeals also denied the Stop.

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On December 16, Florida filed a motion asking the Atlanta Court of Appeals to issue an injunction that would at least put the rule on hold while an underlying appeal is decided – a decision known as request for an “injunction pending appeal”. But the court of appeal did not respond to the request Thursday morning.

In the document filed Wednesday, Costello said Biden’s new administrative directive would give Florida 30 days to comply and about two dozen other states that do not have injunctions. He said that “the new memorandum of application emphasizes the need for rapid intervention by the (full) tribunal en banc”.

“Facilities in unprotected states now only have 30 days to ensure that 100% of their staff have received at least one dose of the vaccine,” Costello wrote. “If institutions refuse to comply, they will eventually face enforcement action, ranging from financial penalties and funding freezes to outright termination of their agreements with Medicare and Medicaid providers. ”

The vaccination requirement, issued in early November, would apply to workers in hospitals, nursing homes and other health care providers who participate in Medicare and Medicaid programs. The requirement was originally scheduled to go into effect on December 6, but the Biden administration was suspended. this because of injunctions issued in the Louisiana and Missouri cases.

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But the directive released Tuesday by the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services says the federal government will begin to enforce the requirement where it can. It gives health workers 30 days to have at least one dose of vaccine and 60 days to have two doses, according to a copy attached to the document filed by Costello.

“These changes are necessary to protect the health and safety of patients and staff during the COVID-19 public health emergency,” the federal memorandum said. “COVID-19 vaccination requirements, policies and procedures … must comply with applicable federal non-discrimination and civil rights laws and protections, including providing reasonable accommodation to those who legally have it. right because they have a disability or have sincere religious beliefs, practices or observations that conflict with immunization requirements.

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A Louisiana federal district judge initially issued a nationwide injunction against the vaccination requirement, but the 5th U.S. Court of Appeals this month said the ruling went too far. The New Orleans court of appeals reduced the injunction to apply only to 14 states that filed the Louisiana case.

This effectively left Florida without an injunction against the requirement.

Florida Attorney General’s Office, Attorney General Ashley Moody, argued in the Dec. 16 petition seeking a hearing in the full court of appeals that the rule violates federal laws and would exacerbate staff problems in the provinces. health facilities, including public facilities such as veterans’ retirement homes.

“A vaccination warrant threatens to exacerbate these grim circumstances,” the petition said. “Officials of state-run health facilities expect many health workers to quit rather than get vaccinated. ”

But Rodgers, the Pensacola-based district judge, and a majority of the three-judge appeals court panel rejected the state’s calls to end the requirement.

The majority of the appeal panel, made up of Justices Robin Rosenbaum and Jill Pryor, underscored the rationale for the rule as the nation continues to fight the pandemic. The notice says US Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra, who oversees the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, considered questions such as whether the vaccination requirement would prompt workers health workers to quit their jobs.

“Even though many health workers have been vaccinated against COVID-19, the secretary has found that vaccination rates remain too low in many health facilities,” the advisory said. “Unvaccinated staff continue to pose a significant threat to patients because the virus that causes COVID-19 is highly transmissible and dangerous. The secretary cited data reflecting that the virus spreads easily among health workers and from health workers to patients and that such spread is more likely when health workers are not vaccinated. ”

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