Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced he wants to permanently ban all mandates related to COVID-19.
In a press release, DeSantis, a Republican, said he is proposing legislation that will prevent employment decisions based on COVID-19 vaccination status and prevent schools or businesses from requiring face coverings.
The legislation would specifically prohibit COVID-19 vaccine passports in Florida; prohibit vaccine and mask requirements in Florida schools; prohibit masking requirements by businesses; and prohibit employees from being hired or fired based on whether or not they have received a COVID-19 vaccine.
These would extend a number of measures DeSantis signed in 2021, which he has previously called “unscientific” and “unnecessary,” which were set to expire in July.
“When the world lost its mind, Florida was a refuge of sanity, serving strongly as freedom’s linchpin,” DeSantis said in a statement. “These measures will ensure Florida remains this way and will provide landmark protections for free speech for medical practitioners.”
During a speech in Panama City, DeSantis criticized state-level and national-level efforts to reinstate mask and vaccine mandates, claiming these measures clash with personal freedom.
“It required us over the past few years to stand against major institutions in our society: the bureaucracy, the medical establishment, legacy media and even the president of the United States who, together, were working to impose a bio-medical security state on society,” he said.
Throughout the course of the pandemic, DeSantis has been outspoken about his opposition to lockdowns and closures.
The move was backed by Florida’s Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo. Since Ladapo assumed the position in September 2021, he has been accused by many experts of spreading misinformation on COVID-19 and promoting vaccine hesitancy.
In March 2022, Ladapo recommended healthy children in Florida not receive the COVID-19 vaccine, directly contradicting guidelines from the CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics.
“As a health sciences researcher and physician, I have personally witnessed accomplished scientists receive threats due to their unorthodox positions,” Ladapo said in a statement. “However, many of these positions have proven to be correct, as we’ve all seen over the past few years. All medical professionals should be encouraged to engage in scientific discourse without fearing for their livelihoods or their careers.”
DeSantis, whose name has been floated as a possible GOP candidate in 2024, called for an investigation last month into whether Floridians were misled by pharmaceutical companies about the safety and side effects of COVID-19 vaccines.
The Florida Supreme Court agreed to DeSantis’s request for a grand jury, which will meet for one year before making a decision.
Liberal and conservative voters have been divided on COVID-19 vaccines and mandates since the shots were first rolled out.
According to a December 2022 update to the Kaiser Family Foundation COVID-19 Vaccine Monitor, 38% of Democrats have gotten the updated bivalent booster compared to 12% of Republicans.
The most common answers for why they haven’t received the booster include not thinking they needed it or not thinking that the benefit is worth it.
Smaller shares reported bad side effects from previous COVID-19 vaccine doses and waiting to see if COVID-19 cases increase in their area.