BY JENNIFER CABRERA
Dr. David Nelson, President of UF Health, sent out a memo to all UF Health employees this morning, advising them that since UF Health receives approximately $1.6 billion in federal grants and contracts and Medicare/Medicaid funding annually, all employees who work under the UF Health umbrella–including faculty and staff of all six health colleges and clinical faculty and staff in their hospitals and physician practices, regardless of work location–must be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 by December 8, 2021, to comply with the federal executive order regarding federal contractors.
The memo encourages unvaccinated employees to “seek their first vaccine dose as soon as possible to meet the deadline” and offers a link to information about medical or religious exemptions. It concludes, “We will continue to monitor conversations at the state and federal level related to the executive orders and will assess whether we need to evolve our approach on the basis of other decisions that may surface in the coming weeks and months. In the meantime, thank you for your prompt attention to this matter and for doing your part for the Greater Good as we follow the federal order.”
In response to our request for comment, Christina Pushaw, Governor Ron DeSantis’ Press Secretary, responded, “The governor’s position is that no Floridian should lose his or her job over COVID-19 vaccine mandates. Governor DeSantis called the special session to strengthen protections for workers who are threatened with termination. The pro-mandate position – that people should be forced to get shots, on a regular basis, indefinitely, and provide their medical records to their employers, or else they cannot feed their families – is unscientific extremism.”
At an October 21 press conference during which Governor DeSantis announced that a special session of the legislature will be coming soon, he said, “A lot of the nurses, particularly the female nurses who are in childbearing years, some of them are pregnant, but some of them may be wanting to [get pregnant]. Many of them… have had COVID and recovered. So how should they lose their job if they’re just making a judgment of whether that’s something that they think they want to do, because in spite of what some people tell you who say they know everything, the fact of the matter is, we’re going to find out more and more stuff as the years go on. And so to take that choice away from someone at the risk of their livelihood, is just fundamentally wrong.”
The governor went on to say that respecting the medical freedom of medical professionals will benefit the state because employees whose jobs are threatened in other states will want to move to Florida. He also said that the strategy needs to be two-pronged: legislation to protect employees and lawsuits against the federal government’s mandate. “And so if we can get legal redress where we can get that enjoined, then we’re going to be able to have all those jobs saved… We need to legislate and we need to litigate. I think you need to do both; some people say, just file a lawsuit and that’s all you need to do. I disagree with that. I think we have a responsibility to put in law what we’re for, the protections that we think are important, and to make sure that people understand that even if Biden were to fold and stop doing all this, we still believe these protections would be warranted.”