PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. — Gov. Ron DeSantis was in the Florida Panhandle on Tuesday where he outlined a plan to permanently ban mandates on the COVID-19 vaccine and masks.
He made the announcement while speaking at the Todd Herendeen Theater in Panama City Beach, marking it as another of his 2023 legislative goals.
DeSantis said he's seeking to protect Florida from what he calls the "biomedical security state," denouncing groups like the Centers for Disease Control and Biden administration for their pandemic protection efforts.
"When the world lost its mind, Florida was a refuge of sanity, serving strongly as freedom's linchpin," DeSantis said. "These measures will ensure Florida remains this way and will provide landmark protections for free speech for medical practitioners."
If approved by lawmakers, DeSantis' effort permanently restricts COVID-19 shot and mask rules in schools and prevents public and private employers from hiring and firing based on mRNA shot status.
DeSantis outlined policies that he said will:
- Permanently prohibit COVID-19 mask requirements throughout Florida
- Permanently prohibit COVID-19 vaccine and mask requirement in all schools
- Permanently prohibit COVID-19 vaccine passports in Florida
- Permanently prohibit employers from hiring or firing based on MRNA vaccines
Here’s an infographic from @GovRonDeSantis’s office. Proposal builds off a 2021 COVID special session law which has a June sunset for its provisions: https://t.co/a2mqkGRXpT https://t.co/t01mkB0djJ pic.twitter.com/iXX8Taikqh— Forrest Saunders (@FBSaunders) January 17, 2023
The governor said these policies will also protect medical freedom of speech including:
- Protect medical professionals' freedom of speech
- Protect the right to disagree with the preferred narrative of the medical community
- Protect the religious views of medical professionals
Previous COVID-19-related policies that were approved by the Florida Legislature in 2021 are set to expire on July 1.
"We need to lead with this by making all of these protections permanent in Florida statute, which we're going to go in the upcoming legislative session," DeSantis said.
DeSantis was joined by Rep. Dr. Neal Dunn, R-Fla., CFO Jimmy Patronis and Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo.
Democrats said they had serious concerns about the governor's COVID-19 policies.
House Minority Leader Fentrice Driskell, D-Tampa, said she worries people will suffer without COVID-19 protections and virus misinformation will compound.
"Eighty-four thousand-plus dead Floridians and counting," Driskell said. "Masks work, the CDC has proven that. The mRNA vaccines work."
Driskell said the governor's message is dangerous for Florida.
"Ron DeSantis — what we witnessed today — he has become the No. 1 peddler of a dangerous message from the anti-vax establishment," Driskell said. "It is a fake ideology with real consequences."
With Florida Republicans holding supermajorities in both chambers of the Legislature, the governor's policies will likely get traction, if not easy approval.