FL Gov. Ron DeSantis blasted President Biden during an event Wednesday at Panama City City Hall. Screenshot: The Florida Channel
In a war of words between the president and some state governors, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Wednesday blasted President Joe Biden over the COVID-19 crisis.
“Why don’t you do your job? Why don’t you get this border secure, and until you do that, I don’t want to hear a blip about COVID from you,” DeSantis said, directing his comments to Biden.
The words came as DeSantis was in Panama City in the Panhandle for a news conference on hurricane relief funding. But DeSantis wanted to respond to comments made by Biden at a White House briefing on Tuesday.
What Biden said Tuesday was that some governors, without naming them, are impeding efforts to curb the coronavirus by blocking local mandates related to masks and vaccinations.
“I say to these governors, please help. But if you aren’t going to help, at least get out of the way of the people who are trying to do the right thing,” Biden said at the White House briefing. “COVID-19 is a national challenge, and we have to come together, all of us together as country, to solve it.”
Florida and Texas have the highest number of new COVID cases in the nation, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and their governors, both Republicans, refuse to allow mask mandates or vaccination mandates in their states. For days now, the Florida Hospital Association has reported daily new peaks in COVID hospitalizations.
DeSantis on Wednesday accused Biden of stifling personal freedom.
“This is a guy who ran for president saying he was going to, quote, shut down the virus. And what has he done? He’s imported more virus from around the world by having a wide-open southern border…”He’s not shutting down the virus, he’s helping facilitate it in our country.” At the news conference, DeSantis did not cite any evidence for that claim.
As to Biden’s efforts, on Tuesday, the president called on states with low vaccination rates and high infection rates to redouble their efforts to get people vaccinated, including recommending $100 incentives. He said he had implemented at the federal level “tough, sometimes unpopular steps to keep people safe and our economy strong.” He said federal employees, military personnel and contractors must be vaccinated or comply with strict protocols: wear face masks while working, get tested frequently, maintain safe distance from others, and rarely travel.
Biden said some states and local governments are following suit, as well as private companies.
“Even Fox has vaccination requirements,” Biden said. “I want to thank Walmart, Google, Netflix, Disney, Tyson Foods for their recent actions requiring vaccination for employees.”
“But others have declined to step up,” he continued. “And worst of all, some state officials are passing laws or signing orders that forbid people from doing the right thing. As of now, seven states not only ban mask mandates, but also ban them in their school districts, even for young children who cannot get vaccinated. Some states have even banned businesses and universities from requiring workers and students to be masked or vaccinated.”
DeSantis countered Wednesday that Biden’s willingness to impose masking and vaccination requirements, practices recommended by the CDC and other medical authorities, is an affront to personal liberty.
“We can either have a free society, or we can have a biomedical security state,” DeSantis said at the gathering Wednesday in Panama City Hall.
He reiterated that he will ensure that parents, not local school boards, can decide individually whether their children will mask up to go to school.
“I can tell you, In Florida, the parents are going to be the ones in charge of that decision,” the governor said.
As to Biden saying help or get out of the way, DeSantis fired off this response:
“If you’re coming after the rights of parents in Florida, I’m standing in your way … If you are trying to lock people down, I am standing in your way.”
But Biden said at the White House Tuesday that, “What’s different about this surge, from previous ones, is we have the tools to prevent this rise in cases from shutting down our businesses, our schools, our society, as we saw what happened last year.”
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