Ron DeSantis pushes to permanently ban Florida’s Covid-19 mandates

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Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis urged state lawmakers to make permanent existing penalties for companies that require all employees to receive the Covid-19 vaccination, his latest move to curb pandemic mitigation efforts.

The proposal would indefinitely extend measures DeSantis signed into law in 2021 that made Florida the first state in the nation to threaten companies with fines if they required workers to get the Covid-19 vaccine. Those measures pitted DeSantis and Florida against the federal government over President Joe Biden’s efforts to vaccinate the nation’s workforce — a stalemate that helped bolster the Republican governor’s popularity among conservatives.

Now, as DeSantis considers a run for president, he’s reigniting that battle.

This time, DeSantis has encouraged skepticism about Covid-19 vaccines, placing himself well to the right of his main potential rival for the GOP nomination, former President Donald Trump, who continues to view vaccine development as a one of his main achievements of the administration.

“They were wrong about the locks,” DeSantis said Tuesday. “They were wrong about the mask mandates. They were wrong about school closures. They were wrong about the mRNA injections. They were wrong about vaccine passports and vaccine mandates.

DeSantis wants to make the laws permanent passed in November 2021 after calling a special session in response to the Biden administration’s federal vaccine mandate. Those measures, scheduled to expire at the end of June, included bans on mask requirements in schools and government and banned vaccinations as a condition of travel.

DeSantis called on lawmakers to ban vaccine mandates altogether and inflict punitive penalties on companies that fail to comply, and threatened to strip state protections against Covid-19-related businesses on any company that followed Biden’s mandate. But the Republican-controlled legislature would not go that far. Instead, the bill that ended up on DeSantis’s desk said that companies could require vaccinations as a condition of employment if workers could opt out through medical or religious exemption, proof of natural immunity, or submit to regular testing for Covid-19. .

It’s unclear whether DeSantis would extend existing limitations on vaccine requirements or whether he is suggesting new legislation that would prohibit any company from making vaccines a condition of employment.

In addition to proposing permanent mask bans and strict vaccines, DeSantis also wants to prevent doctors from losing their medical license if they take positions that contradict the medical consensus. During Tuesday’s event in Panama City Beach, DeSantis hosted a local dermatologist onstage who had been spreading unfounded conspiracies about Covid-19 on Twitter.

“We want our doctors, especially our doctors, to be protected with the freedom to speak the truth,” said DeSantis.

After Tuesday’s announcement, House Minority Leader Fentrice Driskell, a Democrat from Tampa, called DeSantis “the number one peddler of a dangerous message from the anti-vaccine establishment.”

“It’s a false ideology with real consequences – over 84,000 dead in Florida and counting,” Driskell said. “Masks work, the CDC has proven it. mRNA vaccines work.

DeSantis’ most recent skepticism about vaccines is a reversal of his efforts in early 2021, when his administration aggressively worked to make vaccines available to seniors and the governor bragged about the state’s speed in rolling out the vaccine.

“Florida leads the nation in vaccines for the 65+ age-first approach,” said a January 2021 press release from his office.

At one point, DeSantis appeared on Fox News alongside a 100-year-old World War II veteran getting a live-on-air fix. At a press conference in July 2021, DeSantis gave full support to the effectiveness of the vaccine against the Covid-19 virus.

“If you are vaccinated, fully vaccinated, the chance of you becoming seriously ill or dying from Covid is effectively zero,” he said at the time. “These vaccines are saving lives. They are reducing mortality.”

However, as DeSantis focused on a potential showdown with Trump for the 2024 GOP nomination, his public support for the vaccine began to wane. He declined to say whether he had received a booster shot — a position Trump called “cowardly” in a 2022 interview — and has made Florida an outlier in his approach to the vaccine in recent months. Under DeSantis, Florida became the only state to recommend against vaccinating children, and the state’s Department of Health also discouraged men under 40 from receiving the mRNA Covid-19 vaccine because of concerns about side effects.

Cases of myocarditis and pericarditis, inflammation of the heart and lining of the heart, are rare after mRNA vaccines, although they are more likely to occur among young men. The risk of cardiac inflammation is much greater with Covid-19 than with vaccination.

In December, DeSantis also successfully lobbied the Florida Supreme Court to form a grand jury to investigate the vaccine’s development, distribution and promotion.

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