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Judge will reconsider COVID vaccine mandate

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AP Photo/Lynne Sladky
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Pointing to a new state law, a federal judge has decided to reconsider Florida’s request for an injunction against a Biden administration requirement that workers at hospitals, nursing homes and other health-care providers be vaccinated against COVID-19.

But lawyers in Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody’s office and the Biden administration indicated they would rather fight it out at a federal appeals court.

The legal wrangling came as the vaccination requirement for health-care workers is poised to take effect Dec. 6 --- and after U.S. District Judge M. Casey Rodgers on Nov. 20 denied a motion by the state for a preliminary injunction or temporary restraining order against the requirement.

The state last week took the case to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and requested that Rodgers issue an emergency injunction against the vaccination requirement while the Atlanta-based appellate court considers the issues.

Rodgers on Saturday refused to issue the emergency injunction but said she would reconsider the state’s original request for a preliminary injunction. The reason: Florida lawmakers on Nov. 17 passed a bill aimed at preventing vaccination mandates, a measure that Gov. Ron DeSantis signed Nov. 18.

In an order Saturday, Rodgers wrote that the state had not informed her of the bill’s passage before she issued the Nov. 20 ruling denying the preliminary injunction or temporary restraining order. Rodgers wrote Saturday that she “will consider it now, given its passage.”

“In light of this law, sovereign interests are implicated, most notably a concern that the new state law creates a conflict that forces state-run agency and facility heads to make a decision by December 6 as to which law to follow, which could give rise to an irreparable sovereign injury,” Rodgers wrote in the six-page order. “Therefore, the court will hold a hearing on the matter in advance of December 6, out of an abundance of caution.”

Rodgers scheduled a hearing Wednesday in Pensacola, where she is based. But attorneys for the state and the Biden administration responded Sunday with a joint motion to “vacate” the hearing, as Florida plans to “pursue expeditiously its previously filed appeal from the court’s denial of a preliminary injunction.”

“The parties agree that further district court proceedings on the same motion are unwarranted under these circumstances,” the joint motion said.

Moody’s office filed the lawsuit Nov. 17 and sought 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 Saturday said she would not reconsider denial of a temporary restraining order.