TALLAHASSEE, Florida – Citing new state law, a federal judge ruled to reconsider Florida’s injunction request against a Biden administration demand that workers in hospitals, nursing homes and other providers of healthcare should be vaccinated against COVID-19.
But attorneys for Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody’s office and the Biden administration have indicated they would rather fight in a federal appeals court.
The legal row arose as the vaccination requirement for healthcare workers is set to go into effect on December 6 — and after U.S. District Judge Mr. Casey Rodgers dismissed on November 20 a state petition for a preliminary injunction or temporary restriction order against the requirement.
Last week, the state took the case to the 11th U.S. Court of Appeals and asked Rodgers to issue an emergency injunction against the vaccination requirement while the Court of Appeals for ‘Atlanta is looking at the issues.
Rodgers on Saturday refused to issue the emergency injunction, but said she would reconsider the state’s initial request for a preliminary injunction. The reason: Florida lawmakers passed a bill on Nov. 17 to prevent vaccination warrants, a measure Governor Ron DeSantis signed on Nov. 18.
In an order issued on Saturday, Rodgers wrote that the state did not notify her of the passage of the bill until she made the Nov. 20 decision denying the preliminary injunction or restraining order. temporary. Rodgers wrote on Saturday that she “will review it now, given its passage.”
âIn light of this law, sovereign interests are involved, including the fear that the new state law will create a conflict that requires the heads of state-run agencies and facilities to make a decision by the 6th. December as to which law to follow, which could result in irreparable sovereign injury, âRodgers wrote in the six-page order. “Therefore, the court will hold a hearing on the matter before December 6, in an excess of caution.”
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Rodgers has a hearing scheduled for Wednesday in Pensacola, where she is based. But attorneys for the state and the Biden administration responded on Sunday with a joint motion to “cancel” the hearing, as Florida plans to “swiftly pursue its previously filed appeal against the court’s denial of a preliminary injunction “.
“The parties agree that further district court proceedings on the same petition are not warranted in these circumstances,” the joint petition said.
Moody’s office filed a complaint Nov. 17 and requested an injunction or temporary restraining order against the vaccination rule, which was issued this month by the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Rodgers’ order on Saturday said she would not reconsider denying a temporary restraining order.
The federal rule 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.
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Rodgers, who was appointed to the federal bench by former Republican President George W. Bush, wrote in the Nov. 20 ruling that Florida failed to demonstrate “irreparable harm” to justify an injunction or temporary injunction . In part, the state has argued that the rule will affect state-run facilities, such as veterans’ retirement homes.
“The affidavits (by state officials) in support of the motion include assertions about how various agencies and institutions anticipate they might be affected by the mandate,” Rodgers wrote in the ruling. from November 20. “In particular, affidavits express the views of agency heads who” feel “that they” may “lose a certain percentage or number of employees, or speculate on the consequences they will suffer” if widespread resignations were to occur. “However, such opinions, in the absence of supporting factual evidence, remain speculative and can be considered conclusive.”
In the lawsuit, Moody’s office alleges that the federal agency 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.
The vaccination 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.
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In a footnote to the order on Saturday, Rodgers wrote that “for all practical purposes the court is holding an evidentiary hearing on the preliminary injunction request before December 6 in order to adequately deal with the new law. (state) and hear all of Florida’s arguments and evidence regarding a preliminary injunction. “
“This should not be interpreted as an indication that the decision will necessarily change, but because Florida argues that irreparable harm could arise before the court can consider the merits of the case if widespread resignations disrupt the ability of state-run facilities to provide the necessary services or if federal funding is withdrawn before that date, the court will hear all evidence, âshe wrote.
At least one other challenge has been filed by states regarding the health care vaccination requirement. 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.
Although the federal government did not file detailed arguments in the Florida case, it did file a 66-page document in Missouri that cited evidence that people vaccinated in health facilities were less likely to ‘get infected with COVID-19 and pass it on to others.
âThe Secretary of (the Department of) Health and Human Services (which includes the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services) reviewed this evidence and concluded that action was urgently needed to protect beneficiaries from Medicare and Medicaid against the possibility of them being infected with the virus. virus while receiving care in facilities funded by these programs, âthe attorneys for the US Department of Justice wrote. “Congress has given the secretary legal responsibility for ensuring that the health and safety of patients is protected in these federally funded facilities. So he issued a rule to do so.”