Judge bangs his gavel
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The federal government’s COVID-19 vaccination mandate for healthcare workers has survived its first legal challenge, with a federal judge rejecting Florida’s bid to put a temporary restraining order on the rule.

For now, the rule, and its deadlines requiring a first shot by Dec. 6 and a second by Jan. 5, remain in place.

The decision was handed down on Saturday by U.S. District judge M. Casey Rodgers of the Northern District of Florida. Rodgers ruled that the state didn’t support its claim the mandate would cause irreparable harm that would warrant a temporary restraining order or preliminary injunction. 

The lawsuit was filed late last week by Florida’s attorney general’s office that argued the state stands to lose millions of dollars in Medicaid and Medicare payouts because of the mandate. The state also argued healthcare facilities could lose residents and patients as a result of the rule. 

The complaint also argued that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services lacked authority to impose the mandate, didn’t consult with states before implementing the vaccine requirement and failed to allow comment on the rule ahead of implementation. 

“The affidavits in support of the motion include assertions of how the various agencies and institutions anticipate they may be adversely impacted by the mandate,” Rodgers wrote. “In particular, the affidavits express opinions of agency heads who ‘estimate’ that they ‘may’ lose a certain percentage or a number of employees, or speculate as to the consequences they will suffer ‘if widespread resignations were to occur.’ However, such opinions, absent supporting factual evidence, remain speculative and may be disregarded as conclusory.”

The Florida ruling could be a precedent for three other pending lawsuits challenging the mandate across the United States. A group of 10 states, and another group of 12 states, have also brought legal challenges designed to stop the regulations.

“We anticipate that something will come out of those courts next week,” Cory Kallheim, vice president of legal affairs and social accountability for LeadingAge, told members during a COVID-19 webinar Monday.

Many legal experts have expressed confidence that there isn’t a great likelihood challenges  to the healthcare worker rule would be successful.