Stenhouse on Proposed RIDOH Rule Changes: RI is Better Off Without Them

The rule changes proposed last week by the RI Department of Health (RIDOH) are nothing but a blatant power grab, even as state health officials hail it as a major step towards returning our state to normal.

Technically, the recommended provisions would amend R.I. Gen. Laws Chapter 23-17 and § 23-17.7.1 to make permanent new regulations for the Immunization, Testing, and Health Screening of healthcare workers. The stated purpose is to add or revise definitions for healthcare workers and facilities; redefine periods for which the flu is considered “widespread”; define what “up to date” means; require health care workers to be up to date with COVID-19 vaccines or wear a medical grade N95 mask; require health care facilities to document COVID-19 immunization status of its health care workers; and replace the existing violation and enforcement section.

However, by reading between the lines, the proposed RIDOH rules contain two stunning components:

First, the RIDOH is tacitly admitting that its healthcare worker vaccine mandate was a complete failure. Rhode Island’s healthcare system, tens of thousands of patients, as well as thousands of vital workers, like Dr. Stephen Skoly, are suffering economic and medical danger because of the self-imposed healthcare worker shortage vaccine mandate blunder.

Now, the RIDOH is trying to salvage its tarnished reputation by changing a regulation that never should have been promulgated in the first place. As Dr. Skoly’s federal lawsuit brought to light, it should always have been a viable option for the un-vaccinated to wear N95 masks instead. Not only do vaccines not stop the spread of the virus, but the mask option clearly obviates the need for any kind of mandate in the first-place, which resulted in the exit of thousands of front-line responders from our workforce and the onset of incalculable economic hardship upon those families.

Now, facing a likely court loss over its irrational and unconstitutional vaccine mandate, health officials are scrambling to save face by finally suggesting this alternative masking course.

Second, and more importantly, under the theory of never letting a crisis go to waste, the RIDOH is now seeking to expand its power and authority over future public health issues … and its doing so by trying to make it seem like they’re easing control. Don’t be fooled.

In ostensibly putting forth these amended regulations to establish new standards for future communicable disease responses involving healthcare workers … the RIDOH is inexplicably seeking to double-down on many of its prior major mistakes in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.

What most people don’t realize is that the current healthcare worker vaccine mandate was a temporary “emergency” measure that will soon expire … unless these new rules are approved and implemented.

As part of this new package of rule changes, this vaccine mandate will become permanent … albeit under certain conditions and with specified exemptions. Make no mistake, COVID-19 vaccines will become a permanent fixture in Rhode Island law; but the danger is that its proposed conditions and exemptions could be eliminated at the future whim of the “director” of the RIDOH.

Speaking of the director, one of the rule changes redefines the director position to include his/her designee. Why should some unknown, unvetted, and unelected bureaucrat be arbitrarily granted such power?

In what is clearly an overt infringement on our personal medical privacy, the new rules also mandate that healthcare employers collect proof of the COVID-19 vaccine status of each of their employees and be prepared to report such information to the government, without the employee’s consent.

The new rules also seem to place even greater reliance on CDC recommendations – automatically adopting national one-size-fits-all policies, thus eliminating independent and critical-thinking about special circumstances that might exist in our state. Sadly, as we all know now, the CDC is hopelessly incompetent and corrupt.

The proposed rule changes also increase RIDOH’s unilateral power by expanding the definitions of what constitutes a healthcare facility and a healthcare worker … more institutions and people to rule over.

The new rules would further grant the “director” unlimited power to declare when a flu is “widespread” … thus potentially triggering new and oppressive RIDOH mandates.

“Up to date” is redefined as not just receiving the primary doses of COVID-19 vaccines, but also “all recommended boosters”.

The new rules would also result in new costs for healthcare facilities via an unfunded mandate that requires “an adequate supply of medical masks or higher-grade N95 masks” be provided at no charge to all healthcare workers.

And perhaps most ominously, the new rules would eliminate the clearly specified fine and procedure for healthcare workers who violate the provisions … and replace it with the threat of unspecified “administrative action” by RIDOH, opening the door to arbitrary, extreme, and political persecution – as with Dr. Skoly.

There is only one clearly positive component to these proposed new rules … allowing for the refusal of the annual flu vaccine with written notice – for any reason – and without the requirement to explain why a medical or religious exemption should be granted.

In conclusion, our state would be better off if nothing along these lines were to be done … and allow all related RIDOH rules and Executive Orders to simply expire in their due course.

Rhode Islanders should not support these new proposed rules … rules that will grant more power to the government healthcare issues and rules will lead to less medical freedom for healthcare workers.

Concerned citizens are encouraged to publicly comment on these proposed rules by visiting .

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in The Ocean State Current, including text, graphics, images, and information are solely those of the authors. They do not purport to reflect the views and opinions of The Current, the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity, or its members or staff. The Current cannot be held responsible for information posted or provided by third-party sources. Readers are encouraged to fact check any information on this web site with other sources.

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