Judge refuses to block health care vaccination rule
A federal judge quickly rejected Florida’s request to block the Biden administration’s requirement to vaccinate workers in hospitals, nursing homes and other health care providers against COVID-19.
U.S. District Judge M Casey Rodgers issued an 11-page order on Saturday, November 20, rejecting Attorney General Ashley Moody’s request for a preliminary injunction or temporary restraining order against federal law. Moody’s office Wednesday filed a lawsuit challenging the rule and seeking an injunction or temporary restraining order before the vaccination requirement took effect on December 6.
However, Rodgers wrote that Florida did not show “irreparable harm” to justify an injunction or temporary restraining order. In part, the state has claimed that the law will affect state-run facilities, such as veterans’ nursing homes, and exacerbate health-care staff shortages.
“In reviewing the record, the court found that there was insufficient evidence that irreparable damage would occur in the absence of a TRO (Temporary Restraining Order) or preliminary injunction prior to December 6, 2021,” Rodgers wrote. Testimonies (from state officials) in support of the proposal include assurances about how the various agencies and organizations anticipate that they may be adversely affected by the state. In particular, the testimonies express the opinions of agency heads who “estimate” that they “might” lose a certain percentage or number of staff, or speculate about the consequences they would suffer “if large-scale resignations occur.” However, such opinions, in the absence of supporting factual evidence, remain speculative and may be discarded as definitive.”
The lawsuit came after Florida also challenged other vaccination decisions issued by the Biden administration — and was filed on the same day the Republican-controlled legislature passed a law intended to block such mandates.
The rule, issued this month by the federal Centers for Medicare and 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 the COVID-19 vaccine by December 6, and be fully vaccinated by January 4, with limited exceptions for medical and religious reasons.
In denying a request for an injunction or temporary restraining order, Pensacola-based Rodgers said the state has not shown irreparable harm with regard to agencies losing federal funds for failing to comply with vaccination requirements.
Furthermore, there is no evidence to suggest that the expected loss of federal funding from non-compliance by state agencies will occur immediately on December 6, 2021, because the confirmed staff loss is speculative, and the affidavits do not take into account any impact from the availability of the exemption process provided for in the rule The provisional final, and even in the event of non-compliance, any potential termination of the funding will not occur on December 6.” W. Bush.
The order does not end the lawsuit, which was at least the second challenge the states have launched against the health care vaccination requirement. Missouri, Nebraska, Arkansas, Kansas, Iowa, Wyoming, Alaska, South Dakota, North Dakota, and New Hampshire joined together on November 10 to file a lawsuit in federal court in Missouri. This case is still pending.
Moody’s office claims, in part, that the federal agency known as CMS exceeded its statutory authority in issuing the requirement and did not follow appropriate procedures, such as consulting with states and serving the notice. Also, the lawsuit maintains that the requirement is “arbitrary and capricious.” Much of the lawsuit is based on alleged violations of the Federal Administrative Procedure Code.
“To start, CMS lacks the ability to issue an industry-wide vaccination authorization,” the lawsuit said. “The laws that rely on it do not give it such blanket authority. In fact, it prevents CMS from exercising this level of control over the healthcare industry.”
This requirement is set to affect hundreds of private hospitals, nursing homes and other providers in Florida, as well as state agencies that provide health care services. State and industry officials have repeatedly pointed to concerns about staff shortages.
But when the regulation was announced this month, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said it will protect health care workers and patients as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.
“Today’s action addresses the risks to patient safety of unvaccinated health care personnel and provides stability and standardization across the nation’s health care system to enhance the health of the people and the caregivers who care for them,” Chiquita Brooks Lashore, director of the federal agency, said in a prepared statement at the time.
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 Wednesday that requirements for companies with 100 or more workers are on hold while legal challenges emerge.
During a special legislative session, state lawmakers on Wednesday approved $5 million that Moody’s office could use, at least in part, to fight federal vaccination mandates. On Thursday, Governor Ron DeSantis signed into law a bill (HB 1B) that includes the money.