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DeSantis Objects To Vaccine Mandates For Hospital Workers

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

As some hospitals begin mandating staff members receive the COVID shot, Gov. Ron DeSantis made it clear he’s not a fan of the idea. He did not say he would ban the practice.

Gov. Ron DeSantis didn’t want Florida businesses to require customers to show proof of COVID-19 vaccinations to get served or enter establishments, so he swayed lawmakers this spring to pass legislation banning “vaccine passports.”

Now, the governor says he also doesn’t support hospitals requiring their staff members to get vaccinated.

DeSantis would not say Thursday whether he would ban hospitals from requiring staff to get vaccinated but made clear he’s not a fan of the idea.

“It's not something I support,” DeSantis said when asked about the issue during a news conference at Tampa General Hospital.

As the numbers of COVID-19 infections across the state spike and inpatient admissions soar, some hospitals are mandating vaccinations for staff members.

Jackson Health Chief Executive Officer Carlos Migoya announced at a news conference Thursday that the Miami hospital will require staff to be vaccinated or face restrictions, according to media reports. Migoya said staff who don’t have at least one vaccine dose by Aug. 23 will be required to wear N95 masks at all times. Migoya also said the hospital will give one-time $150 bonuses to workers who are completely vaccinated by Sept. 30.

Jackson Health’s announcement followed similar vaccination requirements from Mayo Clinic Jacksonville, Baptist Health Jacksonville and Ascension St. Vincent's.

Also, the federal Department of Veterans Affairs is requiring most of its medical staff to get vaccinated.

DeSantis said frontline health care workers at Florida hospitals --- as well as nursing homes --- were among the first people who had access to shots after the federal government gave emergency-use authorization to the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines in December.

While DeSantis said between 80 percent and 90 percent of physicians got vaccinated, he said the uptake among nurses wasn’t as great.

Those comments were underscored by an AARP report last month that showed just 42 percent of Florida’s nursing home workers were vaccinated. That was the second lowest vaccination rate in the nation during a four-week review period and was significantly less than the 56 percent who were vaccinated nationwide.

“How that is implemented,” DeSantis said of vaccine mandates, “and how people respond to that, there will definitely be some reaction to that.”

DeSantis appeared with Tampa General CEO John Couris and leaders from the University of South Florida Morsani College of Medicine to discuss the promise of monoclonal antibody treatments for COVID-19 patients, under researchby the hospital's Global Emerging Disease Institute.

"They provide your body an ability to fight back against the virus and results from the trials were a 70% reduction in hospitalization or death,” DeSantis said.

Tampa General has treated over 1,600 patients with monoclonal antibodies, which prevent the virus from infecting cells, according to Dr. Kami Kim, of TGH and USF. The treatment is most often used for patients within the first seven days of catching the virus, when symptoms.

We just want people to know that they are being used all throughout Florida,” the governor said.

Florida’s COVID-19 death toll continues rises, infections spread and hospitalizations soar because of the highly transmissible delta variant of the coronavirus.

Florida reported an additional 20,133 new COVID-19 infections on Wednesday, making the state responsible for about 22 percent of the new cases reported nationwide for the day, according to data posted Thursday by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The state also reported 84 COVID-19 deaths Wednesday, accounting for nearly 17 percent of the reported deaths nationwide that day.

Meanwhile the numbers of people in Florida hospitals with COVID-19 reached 12,888, according to data maintained by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

COVID-19 patients are occupying 22 percent of the hospital beds in the state, the highest percentage in the nation, the data show. Florida also lags in vaccination rates, a factor that has contributed to the spike.

At the press conference, Dr. Charles Lockwood, dean of USF's medical school, indicated that this summer’s wave of COVID is similar to a flu season for those who have been vaccinated.

WJCT reporter Raymon Troncoso, WMFE reporter Danielle Prieur and Health News Florida producer Rick Mayer contributed to this report.

Christine Sexton - News Service of Florida