Gov. Ron DeSantis at an Alachua County news conference.Sept. 13, 2021. Cabinet officials Ashley Moody, the Attorney General, and Jimmy Patronis, the Chief Financial Officer attended the news conference. DeSantis also attended a Tampa news conference, where he reiterated his opposition to vaccine mandates. Credit: Gov. Ron DeSantis’ Facebook page.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Attorney General Ashley Moody, and Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis have been vaccinated against COVID-19, yet duringa morning press conference Monday, three of the four top politicians in Florida railed against President Joe Biden’s push for federal vaccine mandates.
“We’re here today to make it very clear that we are going to stand for the men and women who are serving us. We are going to protect Florida jobs,” DeSantis said in Alachua County. “We are not going to let people be fired because of a vaccine mandate.”
The Biden administration proposals announced last week that businesses with 100 or more employees will have to require vaccinations or mandatory weekly testing.
Much of the press conference revolved around Florida’s first responders as a rallying point, with DeSantis, Moody, and Patronis saying the first responders will have to choose between getting a vaccine or losing their job. The state officials referenced the city of Gainesville’s vaccine mandates for city employees.
Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, who also serves as the state’s fire marshal, said:
“No one understands COVID better than our first responders. … They’re the tip of the spear when it comes to dealing with any of this. Look, I got my vaccine, but I ain’t going to support no damn mandate.”
Patronis said that vaccine mandates are “nothing more than big government health care part 2.0” and likened the move to the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare.
Attorney General Ashley Moody cast doubt on the legality of vaccine mandates in Florida.
“Now you have city officials saying they’re going to fire employees if they do not take the vaccine,” Moody said. “It is unlawful. It is directly contradicting Florida law.”
Moody referenced a law passed in the 2021 legislative session forbidding businesses and government agencies from requiring a so-called “vaccine passport”attesting that someone has been vaccinated for COVID-19.
One Cabinet member was not at the conference — Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services Nikki Fried, the only Democrat elected to the Florida Cabinet. Fried was not invited to join the conference, Fried communication staffer Erin Moffett wrote in an email to the Phoenix.
In a written statement following Biden’s new vaccine announcement, Fried expressed hesitation about a widespread mandatory vaccination policy:
“Vaccines must be strongly encouraged for all workers, but for those unable or unwilling, frequent testing should be used to keep everyone safe until this pandemic is over,” she wrote.
“However, I have reservations about a blanket, federal vaccine mandate. In Florida, from the beginning, it’s been our local governments and school boards that have been most responsive to the needs of Floridians, including getting us through the first wave of the pandemic.”
Later in the afternoon Monday, DeSantis reiterated, in a Tampa news conference, that he opposes a vaccine mandate for Tampa city workers and President Biden’s proposed federal-level mandate. Moody and Patronis were not at that press conference but Senate President Wilton Simpson and House Speaker Chris Sprowls did attend.
DeSantis argued that many first responders already have acquired natural immunity through infections.
“And now they’re being told they’re forced to do this? Even though, scientifically, they have very strong protection. And you just wonder why, what is motivating that? It certainly can’t be science if you’re not recognizing what virtually any study has shown,” DeSantis said.
“People should not lose their jobs. They should not be cast aside and thrown overboard like this based on this decision. So, we’re going to stand with them,” he said.
“The net result of Biden’s policy is you’re going to have good, hardworking people lose their jobs. And they’re going to lose their jobs in very key industries. I mean, we’ve been talking about for how many months about hospitals and the staffing? You talk to any hospital executive and they will say that’s their No. 1, 2, and 3 concern, is being able to have a lot of staff, especially if you have expanded patients coming in for COVID or anything else.
“And yet, what this is going to end up doing, it’s going to drive people out of a lot of key industries including health care at the worst possible time.”
DeSantis said administration figures previously acknowledged they lacked authority to mandate vaccines administratively.
“Congress has not enacted anything different, and it’s basically just unilateral action along the lines that we’ve seen in other areas that the courts have struck down, but really, really consequential that puts in jeopardy the jobs of millions and millions of people throughout this country and, obviously, a lot people throughout the state of Florida.
The governor said he’s considering options for opposing the administration’s move.
He also argued that trying to force vaccines on reluctant people will stiffen their resistance to getting the shots.
“The minute people feel like you have government coming down on them like that, I think their skepticism hardens and I think it actually will end up backfiring in both near, medium, and long terms.”
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