DeSantis, Florida defy Biden’s vaccine mandate for healthcare workers: ‘The state law stands’

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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration has pledged to keep protecting unvaccinated healthcare workers despite the Supreme Court’s ruling Thursday that the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate for healthcare workers may remain operational.

In a memo released Friday, a day after the Supreme Court’s widely criticized ruling, the Florida Agency For Health Care Administration announced that the administration will continue to not enforce the president’s mandate and noted that employers who voluntarily choose to abide by the mandate must honor exemption requests.

“As communicated earlier this month, the Agency continues to follow Florida law and will not survey for compliance with the CMS vaccine mandate rule. Florida law requires all employers, including health care employers, to provide broad exemptions to a COVID-19 vaccine mandate,” the memo reads.

These exemptions include a “medical exemption,” “religious exemption,” “periodic testing” exemption, natural immunity exemption and PPE exemption.

(Source: Florida AHCA)

In a statement to the media, the governor’s communications director, Taryn Fenske, stressed that the governor is still mulling over Thursday’s ruling, so additional announcements are likely pending.

“We are disappointed about the CMS ruling and what it could mean for the livelihoods of doctors, nurses, and health professionals in our state. As Florida’s prohibition on vaccine mandates remains in effect for all industries, we will be evaluating next steps for enforcement in the coming days,” she said.

Reached for comment by Mediaite, the governor’s press secretary, Christina Pushaw, was asked whether the governor is concerned that some healthcare facilities may lose their Medicaid or Medicare funding if they don’t enforce the president’s mandate.

She replied by simply stressing that “the state law stands” no matter what and that the focus is on preventing Floridians from losing their jobs.

“As for healthcare workers at facilities covered by the CMS mandate, their jobs are also protected under Florida law. If any worker cannot get vaccinated for reasons of personal beliefs or medical conditions, they must be granted an exemption upon request,” she said.

“Any worker can access the required exemption forms on the Florida Department of Health website. Therefore, there is no reason any Floridian should lose his or her job over a COVID vaccine mandate,” Pushaw added.

At some point in the near future, however, the DeSantis administration may be forced to address the Medicaid/Medicare matter directly.

The Tampa Bay Times notes that if healthcare facilities “are not able to report that 100 percent of their employees have gotten at least a first dose of the vaccine or an exemption by Jan. 27, the federal government will begin issuing warnings. Eventually, if the facility does not comply with the rule, it could lose funding.”

Speaking at a press briefing in Panama City shortly before Thursday’s ruling, the governor made it clear how he feels about the mandate and its potential effects on his state’s healthcare system, particularly as it relates to staffing.

“The medical mandate for the nurses and the doctors, what they’re trying to do is absolutely insane. There are places now in Florida, we provided protections, so nurses were rehired. All these people, many of them have natural immunity. And so that, but there’s a crunch on the staffing because you have obviously a lot more COVID nationwide. And then you have staff that get out sick with it. So what have they done in other states? They have fired nurses for not having vax, even though most of them have natural immunity. So they fire them,” he said.

“But now they’re shorthanded. So what are they doing? They are bringing back on the job, vaccinated nurses who are currently COVID positive. So if you’re unvaccinated, naturally immune and uninfected, they fire you. But if you’re COVID positive and vaxxed, which we know most of the people that are COVID positive now are vaxxed, they are going back on the job. And it just shows you that CMS mandate is absolutely insane, especially given the ineffectiveness, of these shots to actually stop transmission, between individuals,” the governor added.

He was 100 percent correct. As previously reported, to cure staffing shortages, healthcare systems in California and Arizona have been encouraging COVID-positive staff who are allegedly asymptomatic to return to work.

Critics have argued that it’d be far wiser to simply allow unvaccinated workers who are COVID negative to return to work.

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