EXCLUSIVE: DeSantis Plans to Let Controversial COVID-19 Hospital Immunity Expire: Source

By Dan M. Berger
Dan M. Berger
Dan M. Berger
Dan M. Berger mostly covers issues around Florida Governor Ron DeSantis for The Epoch Times. He also closely followed the 2022 midterm elections. He is a veteran of print newspapers in Florida and upstate New York and now lives in the Atlanta area.
and Nanette Holt
Nanette Holt
Nanette Holt
Nanette Holt oversees a team of Epoch Times reporters focused mainly on family issues and Florida politics. The team works to illuminate topics such as the fight to restore parents’ rights in schools, the push to teach young children about gender ideology, and critical race theory and Marxist teachings on college campuses. When not chasing news, she enjoys cattle ranch life with her family and visits hospitals and nursing homes with her miniature horse, Cinnabon.
January 19, 2023Updated: January 25, 2023

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis plans to let a controversial law giving hospitals immunity related to COVID-19 expire in June, a high-ranking administration official with direct knowledge of the plan told The Epoch Times on the condition of anonymity.

A spokesperson for DeSantis declined to comment on the information.

Hearing that their governor won’t seek to extend the law thrilled some medical freedom activists in the state. Others expressed frustration that the law would stay in place for five more months. Now, some told The Epoch Times, they hope the Republican-led Legislature will stand down as well.

The law, they say, has led to countless unnecessary deaths by giving hospitals immunity from malpractice cases in their treatment of COVID-19.

“We’ve been working on [getting rid of] that for two years,” said Gainesville, Florida, attorney Jeff Childers.

‘Evils’ of Blanket Immunity

Childers used to focus strictly on business law. He quickly jumped into medical-freedom cases after the pandemic erupted.

Soon after lockdowns began, Childers helped business owners and parents of school children fight forced masking. He organized lawyers nationwide in a group to share information on how to win those and other COVID-related cases.

He helped government and hospital employees push back against vaccinate-or-terminate policies. He helped assist patient families seeking alternative COVID-19 treatments for hospitalized loved ones.

Of late, one of his main aims has been to reverse hospitality immunity laws.

Removing hospital immunity will save lives, Childers and others told The Epoch Times.

“The hospitals now have blanket immunity for following a preset protocol for every patient that’s dictated by federal officials, regardless of the patient’s individual circumstances, their co-morbidities, their personal medical situation, and especially their desires” for treatment, Childers said.

Yet, “the current hospital protocol has not changed in three years, despite our having learned an entire Encyclopedia Britannica-worth of information about this virus, which is weird,” he said.

Early in the pandemic, hospitals wouldn’t “admit you until your oxygen levels were life-threateningly low,” he said. “They would send people home” from the emergency department.

When patients worsened at home and returned to the hospital for care, “they immediately put you on Remdesivir and on the ventilator, and then you’re most likely to die. The mortality rates are off the charts for that treatment protocol.”

And, Childers added, because of laws giving hospitals immunity for following that federally recommended treatment, “you can go into the hospital with a broken toe, and if they test you, and you test positive [for COVID-19] in the ER, you’re going to be on the COVID floor.

“And they’re going to start you on steroids and Remdesivir, which leads—in 25 percent of the cases, according to the best studies that I’ve seen—to kidney failure. So then, you’re going to be in a medically induced coma and on a ventilator.”

An ampule of Gilead Sciences COVID-19 antiviral remdesivir is pictured at the University Hospital Eppendorf in Hamburg, Germany, on April 8, 2020. (Ulrich Perrey/Pool via Reuters)

“And here’s the point,” Childers said. “Hospitals have no incentive to change that protocol.

“But it’s not entirely the hospitals’ fault, because the hospitals enjoy liability protection if they follow the prescribed protocol. They have risks if they vary from that protocol, not to mention massive financial incentives for adhering to it.”

So if Remdesivir and ventilator use are linked to a higher likelihood of death, why hasn’t the treatment protocol recommended by the federal government changed, he challenged.

“That’s the $64,000 question.”

His best guess: because of the money tied to lucrative vaccine and medication sales.

And if government officials acknowledged a good alternative treatment for COVID-19, the vaccines would no longer be able to be distributed under the Emergency Use Authorization (EUA), he said.

“It’s evil of the worst kind, in possibly its most fully-flowered form.”

Genesis of Hospital Immunity Laws

Childers has joined others in lobbying DeSantis vigorously to end hospital immunity in Florida.

With letters, calls, and visits to his office, they’ve begged the governor to dismantle the measures giving hospitals special protections.

By stripping the immunity, they’ve argued, it would force doctors and hospitals to listen more to patients’ wishes about COVID-19 treatment, rather than adhering strictly to protocols recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Laws giving hospitals immunity in the treatment of COVID-19 blasted through 29 state legislatures across the country at the urging of officials within the administration of former President Donald Trump.

Early in the pandemic, Trump officials argued that hospitals needed protection in treating the unknown novel virus, which was spreading rapidly, leaving a trail of funerals in its wake.

Epoch Times Photo
President Donald Trump greets the crowd before he leaves at the Operation Warp Speed Vaccine Summit on Dec. 8, 2020 in Washington. (Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

And despite a swelling contingent of activists calling for hospitals to try treatments that were not part of the CDC-recommended protocols, only a narrow approach of COVID-19 treatment was approved for immunity from liability.

Testimonies of successful alternative treatments were flooding professional medical blogs and social media. Related posts were routinely censored by big tech platforms.

Often, those success stories touted the effectiveness of a detailed regimen outlined by the Front Line COVID-19 Critical Care Alliance. That treatment plan calls for specific doses of ivermectin, vitamins, and other medications approved for other uses by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Shawn McBride, an attorney with the American Freedom Information Institute in Maitland, Florida, drafted a letter in early 2022 signed by organizations representing hundreds of thousands of Floridians. It was a plea asking DeSantis to veto the immunity extension bill sent to his desk by Florida lawmakers. Without an extension, the bill would have expired in March 2022.

Activists said they were bewildered when DeSantis signed the bill extending hospital immunity until at least June 2023. But they also told The Epoch Times they were willing to trust his leadership.

That same day, DeSantis expanded freedoms in three areas related to COVID-19.

He announced a new policy shielding doctors in Florida who offer medical treatments they feel are best for their patients, even if they deviate from CDC and NIH guidelines.

The new guidelines also eliminated forced masking of employees in the state; reduced COVID-19 quarantines in schools, child-care centers, and workplaces; and added treatment guidelines “empowering health care practitioners to follow science” and not the “status quo,” his office said. 

Epoch Times Photo
Nick Caturano speaks at an Oct. 13, 2022 press conference he organized in Kissimmee, Fla., to allow families tell how they believe hospital treatments for COVID-19 were to blame for the deaths of their loved ones’ deaths. (Nanette Holt/The Epoch Times)

But then medical freedom activists grew increasingly impatient about the hospital immunity laws.

Those legal measures must be reversed, activist Nick Caturano told The Epoch Times in November 2022. Only then will doctors feel free to do what they think is best for patients.

“We will continue to appeal to Gov. DeSantis to repeal hospital immunity and to get straightforward laws that protect our rights to choose our medical treatments, [to have] informed consent, and to abolish any and all avenues, loopholes, and powers of discrimination based on health status and medical choices,” Caturano said.

Sending Hope

Caturano sighed heavily two months later when told of DeSantis’s plans to halt hospital immunity in the state.

“It can’t come soon enough,” Caturano said wearily. “People shouldn’t still be dying of COVID.”

He’s been organizing families whose loved ones died in hospitals to speak about their COVID experiences. All families have blamed hospitals for the tragic outcomes.

Epoch Times Photo
Family members upset about hospital treatment for COVID-19 displayed these posters at a press conference on Oct. 13, 2022 in Kissimmee, Fla. (Nanette Holt/The Epoch Times)

Caturano blames hospitals, too, for their adherence to treatments recommended for COVID-19 by the federal government.

“If DeSantis does this, he’ll send a message to the rest of the country,” Caturano said. “That’s the beautiful thing. It will send hope. ”

Family members who believe their loved ones died unnecessarily from COVID-19 in hospitals “just want to see the killing stopped,” he said.

He compared their hopelessness to how family members must have felt watching loved ones loaded onto trains headed for the notorious Auschwitz concentration camp in Nazi-controlled Germany.

“We just want to see the trains stopped, the protections to go away,” he said. “That will help the healing begin. That’s what these families need. I just hope that it’s sooner than later.”

He prays that other governors will follow with similar actions.

“DeSantis … he’s brave,” Caturano said.

Epoch Times Photo
Cynthia Schrock speaks about the death of her husband, who was treated in a hospital for COVID-19, at a press conference spotlighting the families of COVID-19 victims in Kissimmee, Fla. on Oct. 13, 2022. (Nanette Holt/The Epoch Times)

Cynthia Schrock spoke at a press conference that Caturano organized in October 2022 in Kissimmee, Florida. From the podium, she told of how her husband, a 56-year-old real estate broker, died after seeking treatment at a Florida hospital.

For three weeks, Eric Schrock received treatment that strictly followed the CDC-approved protocols.

A year after his death, his widow asked an independent doctor to review the hospital records. His revelation broke her heart afresh.

Her husband had died, not of COVID-19—for which he’d tested positive—but of a heart attack left untreated for three weeks, records showed.

She sucked in her breath in a ragged gasp when she heard that DeSantis hopes to allow hospital immunity to die in the state.

“I’ve been on my knees before the Lord asking Him to make that [law] go away,” she told The Epoch Times through a rush of tears. “Accountability would happen if those laws were removed. It would bring justice.

Epoch Times Photo
Eric and Cynthia Schrock, before he fell ill and was treated in a hospital for COVID-19, despite records that she says show he was suffering from an untreated heart attack. (Courtesy of Cynthia Schrock)

“Just today, I prayed, and I said, ‘Lord…”

Her voice trailed off, and she began to weep again. She knows she can’t sue the hospital that she believes killed her husband. But people have told her that Eric would be proud that she’s still fighting to change how hospitals treat COVID-19.

And now, that just might happen.

“I’m just amazed,” she said, stifling a sob. “I do believe he’d be proud.”