TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — During a press conference at the City Hall in Panama City Wednesday, Governor Ron DeSantis responded to questions on mask mandates, saying the decision to mask will remain up to parents.
"Joe Biden has taken it upon himself to single out Florida for COVID," DeSantis said.
DeSantis said he is very proud of the Seniors First coronavirus vaccine strategy, saying COVID-19 cases in senior living facilities have declined dramatically.
In the face of staggering numbers Tuesday, DeSantis argued that statewide lockdowns have "failed time and time again throughout this pandemic" and "they have not stopped the spread."
"We said from the beginning, we're going to make it available for all, but we're not going to mandate it on anybody," said DeSantis. "That's an individual's choice to be able to do it."
Speaking Tuesday from the White House, Biden sharply criticized Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and other officials who have moved to block the reimposition of mask mandates to slow the delta strain of the virus. The strain is surging in Florida and TExas, where there are large numbers of unvaccinated people.
DeSantis said he will not allow Florida to be locked down.
"If you're coming after the rights of parents in Florida, I'm standing in your way. I'm not going to let you get away with it. If you're trying to deny kids and in-person education, I'm going to stand in your way," DeSantis said. "I'm going to stand up for the kids in Florida."
The governor ended the press conference saying until Biden has the southern border secure, he didn't "want to hear a blip about COVID" from the president.
"We're a free state," said DeSantis. "People in Florida are going to be able to choose about themselves, about their families, about their kid's education."
DeSantis hosted a virtual roundtable discussion with hospital CEOs Wednesday morning, the same day Florida broke another record for COVID-19 hospitalizations.
The number of people hospitalized for COVID-19 in Florida rose to an all-time high on Wednesday with 12,408 patients, according to data the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released Wednesday.
That total represents 22.56% of total in-patient beds. These numbers are based on 232 hospitals reporting.