Florida will not enforce the Biden administration’s mandatory vaccination policy for healthcare workers upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court, a spokeswoman for the governor’s office said Thursday.
“The State of Florida will not serve as biomedical police for the Biden administration,” said Christina Pushaw, press secretary for Governor Ron DeSantis, in an email to USA TODAY Network-Florida. “Firing unvaccinated healthcare workers, many of whom have immunity conferred by infection, is unethical and unscientific on its face.
She said it also hurts patients “because hospitals in California and other states are now requiring vaccinated, COVID-infected healthcare workers to treat patients due to staffing shortages — which have been exacerbated by vaccination orders. How does that protect someone?
Related coverage by USA TODAY: Supreme Court blocks COVID-19 vaccine or test mandate for workplaces, but upholds medical rule
The rule was released by the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services in November, but its implementation has been blocked due to several legal challenges. Thursday’s Supreme Court decision paves the way for its implementation on January 27.
At a news conference in Panama City Thursday morning several hours before the Supreme Court’s ruling, DeSantis reiterated his opposition to forced vaccinations.
“In Florida, what we said was that no one should be denied a living based on these beatings,” DeSantis said. “It’s your choice. It’s a private choice. It’s not something the government should be imposing.”
The governor’s office applauded the Supreme Court’s separate ruling overturning the Biden administration’s rule that large private businesses with more than 100 workers require them to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
“We are delighted that the Supreme Court has rightly recognized the overreach of the Biden administrator in trying to mandate vaccines through OSHA,” said Taryn Fenske, director of communications for the governor, in an e-mail. mail. “We are disappointed with CMS’s decision and what it could mean for the livelihoods of doctors, nurses and healthcare professionals in our state.
“As Florida’s ban on vaccination mandates remains in effect for all industries, we will assess next steps for enforcement in the coming days.”
The CMS rule only applies to hospitals and other healthcare facilities
The CMS rule applies only to hospitals and other healthcare facilities that receive Medicaid and Medicare funding, require all staff to be vaccinated, have a qualifying waiver approved or pending, or are on medical leave. a temporary delay as recommended by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. .
Hospitals that do not meet the above requirements will receive a notice of non-compliance.
“A facility that is above 80% and has a plan to achieve 100% compliance within 60 days will not be subject to further enforcement action,” the rule states.
The Florida Health Care Association, the state’s largest nursing home industry group, has expressed concerns about the effect of the vaccination requirement on staff.
“We have always encouraged our members to continue working to vaccinate as many residents and staff as possible,” Florida Health Care Association spokeswoman Kristen Knapp said in an email. “However, long-term care is experiencing a historic workforce crisis.
“We are extremely concerned that the court’s decision to allow the CMS mandate to continue will result in the loss of even more care home staff at a time when we are grappling with significant shortages of staff who have an impact on access to care,” she added.
CMS said facilities must allow exemptions for disability or sincere religious belief, observance or practice, and for medical reasons.
“Vendors and vendors should establish exceptions within its policies and procedures and in accordance with federal law,” CMS said in an external guidance note. “CMS believes that exemptions might be appropriate in certain limited circumstances, but no exemption should be granted to a staff member for whom it is not legally required or who is requesting an exemption solely to evade vaccination.”
All Florida employers must follow Florida law, Pushaw said. And Florida law also requires employers who require workers to get COVID shots to provide the exemptions outlined by the Florida Department of Health rule.
“There are no industry-specific loopholes,” she said.
Florida law also protects all workers, including healthcare workers, from being required to get a COVID shot “on pain of termination,” Pushaw said.
“Exemptions in Florida are standardized according to state law and forms are available on the Florida Department of Health website,” she added.
“We therefore encourage any healthcare worker in a covered facility who cannot be vaccinated to complete the FDOH exemption form that applies to their circumstances (eg, sincere belief, medical exemptions, etc.) and to provide this form to his employer.”
Jeffrey Schweers is a Capital Desk reporter for USA TODAY NETWORK-Florida. Contact Schweers at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @jeffschweers.
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