Gov. DeSantis decries Joe Biden’s nursing home vaccination order as ‘massive hammer’

Ron DeSantis

Gov. Ron DeSantis on Thursday called President Joe Biden‘s new requirement that nursing home staff get vaccinated against COVID-19 a “massive hammer,” lacking legislative backing.

“The issue is these nursing homes could lose access to Medicare and Medicaid funding. So that is a massive hammer that they’re trying to bring down,” DeSantis said Thursday morning in Ormond Beach.

DeSantis was at the Ormond Beach Senior Center to announce another state-supported monoclonal antibody treatment site, part of his current strategy to expand access to a treatment shown to keep people with early cases of COVID-19 from getting too sick.

But while he offered support for vaccinations, he has strongly opposed mandating it, in nursing homes or anywhere else.

“The issue is going to be, what’s that going to do to staffing? They’re already short-staffed,” DeSantis said of the pending federal nursing home staff vaccination policy.

“And there’s a lot of people that feel strongly against being mandated, that they think it’s something they should chose. And they may have reasons why they make different choices. So I don’t know how it’s going to work. And there’s going to be a concern amongst these institutions about maintaining all the staff.”

Biden unveiled the new policy Wednesday as the administration continues to look for ways to use mandates to encourage vaccine holdouts to get shots. The policy says if nursing homes receive Medicare or Medicaid funding, their staffs will need to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

The new mandate, in the form of a forthcoming regulation to be issued by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, could take effect as soon as next month.

Hundreds of thousands of nursing home workers are not vaccinated, according to federal data, despite those facilities bearing the brunt of the early COVID-19 outbreak and their workers being among the first in the country to be eligible for shots.

DeSantis, who has threatened public school districts with loss of state funds if they do not follow his ban on mask mandates, lamented the federal government is threatening nursing homes with loss of Medicare or Medicaid money if they do not follow Biden’s vaccination policies.

“That is a major hammer to bring down. And it has not been legislated by Congress,” DeSantis said. “I mean that’s a pure use of executive power to try to bring this down and really could be something that could potentially shake up the industry.”

DeSantis defended Florida’s policy of making vaccinations available to nursing home residents and staff, without mandating them. He said “almost every study” shows vaccinations have held strong against hospitalizations. He also said many nursing home staff members already have had COVID-19, so they should have natural immunities. He said they’re not being counted as safe, but should be.

“Here’s what we did in Florida. We went, the first people who had access to this were the residents and staff of long-term care facilities. So since mid-December those folks had access to it,” he said.

“Obviously not all staff members have done it,” he said.

Last week the AARP released a national report saying Florida nursing home staff have the nation’s second-lowest rate of COVID-19 vaccinations. The AARP report also said Florida has the highest rate of nursing homes reporting at least one staff member with COVID-19.

DeSantis said he did not know if the organization’s data are accurate and would have to check.

“We basically provided. I can tell you every single staff member has had access since mid-December,” DeSantis said. “We put the nursing homes first, and that included the staff member. I know many of them availed themselves, but I know many of them chose not to. But it has been widely available for over nine months now.”

Scott Powers

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at [email protected].


14 comments

  • Alex

    August 19, 2021 at 1:01 pm

    Simple.

    1. If you work in a nursing home and you aren’t vaccinated, you’re too irresponsible to be employed there.

    2. If nursing homes can’t find good responsible people, they should pay more.

    • blake foster

      August 19, 2021 at 3:09 pm

      From this comment it is crystal clear you have never stepped foot inside a nursing home. Nursing homes in present day are operating on razor thin margins. Our revenue is if a fixed per diem from the state per resident so we can’t just “pay more.” We are in a CRISIS and this will end very bad. The only people who will lose are the residents who have no one to take care of them….

      Also, while Nursing Homes cannot meet minumim labor ppd, most facilities will be forced to stop taking new admissions and that is very VERY bad for the already overwhelmed hospitals.

      • Jeffrey Abbott

        August 19, 2021 at 3:15 pm

        I’m not trying to start a fight, but what is a solution in your mind that fits both that labor / economic / loss-of-care reality and safeguarding against the disease? Temporary incentive funding for the homes to encourage vaccination? Something else? Of course I am assuming that vaccinations are the best way to mitigate the spread.

      • Alex

        August 19, 2021 at 5:12 pm

        Then DesAnus needs to help instead of whine about being a stupid nail.

        Next time I suggest you don’t vote for cheap arse Republicans who could care less about what’s good for human beings while flying around the country raising money for his Presidential campaign.

    • Jay Borel

      August 20, 2021 at 9:22 pm

      I really think you irresponsible to hint at people getting a vaccine that is killing people also it is thier right not to get it period so maybe you should mind your business an worry about you an no one else 100%

      • Jeffrey Abbott

        August 20, 2021 at 9:40 pm

        1.) Agreed, it is their right not to get any vaccine in FL, as there are religious exemptions.

        2.) Disagreed, if it’s a communicable disease, worrying about them being close to you or your loved one when they’re unvaccinated is same as worrying about you and your kin.

        3.) That said, it’s also the right of any business to refuse employment to vaccinated and / or unvaccinated workers as well as the public to stop patronizing said business. FL is a right to work state. So there in itself is enough room for minding of one’s own business.

        4.) Those are Federal tax dollars. Lets see how potentially getting them squeezed changes those businesses policies on un/vaccinated staff. It’s not much different that withholding school board members pay for violating a governor’s executive order. I don’t say I agree with either, but money withheld always seemed to me to be effective.

    • Amy Schlegel

      August 21, 2021 at 12:53 am

      !. Nonsense! You do not check your rights as a citizen at the door when you work for a nursing home. No one has the right force another person to be vaccinated against their conscience!
      2. The vast majority of nursing home residents have already been vaccinated. If vaccines work, unvaccinated staff should pose no risk to them. If vaccines do not work, then it is asinine to force nursing home staff or anyone else to be vaccinated! You can’t have it both ways!

  • Tjb

    August 19, 2021 at 1:35 pm

    Today, it looks like DeSantis does not care about protecting the lives of patients in nursing homes. He originally took a huge amount of credit on how he quickly provided vaccine to these patients when the vaccine was first available. But, now, he is against the nursing home staff getting the vaccine. Staff should be vaccinated because the vulnerable nursing home patients even if vaccinated are at great risk to Covid.
    Is DeSantis trading political points with his base at the cost of lives? Death Santis wants votes not life.

    • LJ

      August 20, 2021 at 1:19 pm

      I work in a nursing home, have not been vaccinated, work with COVID patients and have been healthy so far. I’ve declined the flu vaccination every year, we as healthcare providers should not be FORCED into something that we don’t feel secure about putting into our own bodies. People have different reasons and this is supposedly a “free” country! I GUARANTEE you if they mandate that they will see a nursing home shortage like no other! Who is going to care for the elderly then??? Some of these patients were admitted here BECAUSE they got sick after the first or second vaccination and some haven’t been the same since! Before the vaccine was even available we had plenty of patients in their 90s, one was even 102 years old get COVID and survive with very little symptoms!!! The vaccination is not the only answer and they are not displaying how if affects different people with underlying conditions or how many people are dying from COVID who have had the vaccine, OR what side affects people are suffering from that so get the vaccine! If the vaccination works so well what do you “vaccinated people” care that us “unvaccinated people” haven’t had it, your protected from it!!! If we want to take the chance of dying then so be it, there’s no chance of dying if you are vaccinated right?!? It’s a red flag that the government is so persistent about this vaccination, forcing kids to get it without parental consent in different countries and they don’t even know enough about it………but make sure you keep getting that booster shot👍🏼👌🏼💪🏼

  • Cjr

    August 19, 2021 at 2:13 pm

    You should not speak about something you know nothing about.. you have no idea why people have chosen not to get the shot! Most working in nursing homes, were there everyday since this covid crap started.. most havent caught covid.. staff or residents! Those that have, for the most part recovered nicely..! Yes.. there were some deaths however, many are those that had a long list of comirbidities! We know how to protect ourselves. Maybe for some prople, its because they dont want the govt to tell them they have to do it, for some, its religious readons, for others, their body just cant take the assault… yet others dont want to be made to be apart of a clinical trual if an experimental drug!! So..you chise to get the shot.. good for you.. you made a choice.. dont take away my choice! Oh and by the way.. ive been in nursing for 40 years and never have i caught from or gave to any illness from any resident!!

    • tjb

      August 19, 2021 at 2:47 pm

      Please don’t say I know “nothing” — you have some valid discussion points, but your insult weakens your position. I still believe what Biden is requesting is valid, but there are exceptions for the vaccination not being required.

  • Jeffrey Abbott

    August 19, 2021 at 2:38 pm

    I think it’s a fair comparison then to the “no mask mandates in schools” executive order as a hammer.

    If this is about getting control and consolidation of such from local government, then so was the “no mask mandates in schools” order as well.

    Seems very much the pot calling the kettle black and borders hypocrisy.

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    August 19, 2021 at 7:01 pm

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  • SDB

    August 21, 2021 at 6:36 pm

    I am an RN, have worked in nursing & nursing homes for over 25 years now. I have taken care of and continue to take care of positive COVID patients. Nurses are tired and burned out, but we continue to show up and care for our patients. We have vaccinated and unvaccinated employees. For the most all of our residents are vaccinated, my point if every employee was FORCED to get the vaccine today, this will not stop the spread of the virus. The reason for the vaccine is to PROTECT the person receiving it. This in no way shape or form changes or stops the vaccinated person from spreading the virus. Misinformation and fear is leading this pandemic. I can tell you with assuredness, there will an increasing shortage (which be the way there already is one) of nurses, certified nurses-aides and caregivers if people are forced to take a vaccine against their wishes. If you get the vaccine more power to you, wear your mask and social distance, eat your popcorn and stay out of everyone else business.

Comments are closed.


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