DeSantis signs bill shielding healthcare providers from liability for COVID injuries, deaths

Florida governor signs bill over the objections of 35 organizations calling on him to veto the measure.

Updated: February 27, 2022 - 9:39am

Defying a coalition of 35 organizations calling for a veto, Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill this week shielding health-care providers from being sued by patients and family members over COVID-19-related injuries, deaths and refusal to try available treatment.

The new law provides liability protection to health-care providers that follow "government-issued health standards" that "include the CDC's COVID-19 guidelines, which many say aren't working," the groups wrote in a letter to DeSantis. "Some medical professionals have stated that these CDC protocols have led to unnecessary medicines, ventilation and deaths."

Shawn McBride, director of The American Freedom Information Institute, Inc., who led the 35 groups opposing the bill, said that while DeSantis "signed a bill that may allow CDC protocols to continue in some hospitals, we've laid the foundation to help more folks get to medical freedom."

On the same day DeSantis signed the bill, the Florida Department of Health issued new guidelines allowing for more treatments to be made available.

DeSantis and State Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo announced the new guidance without mentioning the bill he signed into law.

The guidelines, DeSantis claims, push back on "unscientific corporate masking, reducing isolation for all Floridians including those in schools and daycares, and recommending that physicians should exercise their individual clinical judgement and expertise based on their patients' needs and preferences."

They also "are empowering health care practitioners to follow science, not Fauci's status quo," he added.

The guidelines address corporate mask policies, advise healthcare practitioners and facilities to reevaluate status quo protocols "in favor of scientifically based treatment options to benefit patients," update school and daycare guidance to limit the student and child isolation timeframe, and reduce the overall isolation period for Floridians who test positive for COVID-19.

"The state of Florida has widespread natural and vaccine-induced immunity," Dr. Ladapo said. "Evidence suggests that most secondary transmission occurs early on. Our state will continue to make decisions for Floridians rooted in sound science, not fear, whether they are working or in school."

The announcement came as the CDC revised its mask requirement policy.

"Despite a lack of evidence that masks, and particularly cloth face coverings, prevent the transmission of COVID-19, many corporations have continued to require their employees to wear masks at work, regardless of the situation," DeSantis' office said. "Florida's new masking guidance advises against wearing facial coverings in a community setting." 

For Floridians overall, instead of quarantining for two weeks as was previously suggested by the CDC, the Florida guidance suggests an overall 5-day isolation period for those who test positive for COVID-19 — for both adults and children.

"It doesn't rely on the use of masks as a mitigation technique among the general public, as the use of masks has been shown to be ineffective in preventing transmission," the governor's office says. This guidance "recognizes that the CDC's guidance is vastly out of date and has forced Floridians to miss work and school even when it is safe to return."

The guidance states that all employees at a corporation shouldn't be forced to wear a mask while at work.

It also updates the school and daycare guidance by reducing the isolation period to 5 days. Parents still maintain the right to determine if their child should wear a mask, which remains strictly optional. Previous guidance, DeSantis' office says, consisted of "outdated, unscientific guidelines that hurt working families and keep kids out of school."

The guidance states that healthy children in daycare don't need to quarantine. Children in daycare who test positive for COVID-19 can return after five days, with no test required. It also reiterates that children attending daycare must never be forced to wear a mask, and that mask-wearing is only a decision to be made by the parent.

Additional guidance advises healthcare practitioners and facilities to reevaluate "status quo protocols" in favor of scientifically based treatment options to benefit patients. This guidance urges that providers be given "the flexibility to treat patients with off-label prescriptions if they determine it may help them" and if the patient wants to try them and gives informed consent.