DeSantis wants to permanently ban vaccine, mask requirements for schools, businesses

By: - January 17, 2023 5:33 pm

Pfizer COVID vaccine. Source: Screenshot/YouTube

Gov. Ron DeSantis on Tuesday unveiled an initiative to permanently ban mask requirements across Florida and permanently block COVID-19 vaccine requirements at schools and businesses.

During a press conference in Panama City Beach, the Republican governor announced a proposal on those issues, including prohibiting employers in Florida from firing employees who aren’t vaccinated.

The proposal would have to be in the form of a piece of legislation during the 2023 legislative session.

DeSantis was joined by Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo and others at the news conference.

The proposal also pushed for protection of “medical freedom of speech.” That would mean allowing physicians “to disagree with the preferred narrative, of the medical community,” according to a poster-like flier that had limited information about the initiative.

Earlier, DeSantis had banned what’s called “vaccine passports.”

But now, he is pushing for a broader ban across Florida. The governor said that he is confident lawmakers will pass legislation to protect freedom of speech from the medical community.

The state wants to prevent medical professionals from “discrimination based on their personal views, and ensure “no one loses their job or medical license for voicing their professional opinions in Florida,” according to a press release from the governor’s office.

“They will pass it this year; I’ve already talked to the leadership,” DeSantis said. “But we want to have our medical practitioners, particularly our physicians, be protected with the freedom to be able to speak the truth.”

In 2021, DeSantis called members of the Legislature to convene a special session to protect workers from vaccine mandates by employers. And the state had also blocked through legislation a mask requirement for children at public schools, among other provisions, as previously reported by the Florida Phoenix.

“We also called a special session of the Florida Legislature to ensure that Floridians livelihoods were protected,” DeSantis said. “We banned mandates in the workplace for COVID shots because nobody should have to choose between a job they need and a shot they don’t want.”

“We banned mandates in the workplace for COVID shots,” DeSantis said.

Later Tuesday, Florida House Democratic Leader Fentrice Driskell said it was important to address remarks made about COVID safeguards during the governor’s press conference, calling DeSantis’ rhetoric “dangerous” to the health of Florida residents.

She also pushed for Floridians to get booster doses. The governor had questioned the effectiveness of bivalent boosters during the news conference.

“So, Ron DeSantis, what we witness today, he’s become the number one peddler of a dangerous message from the anti-vax establishment. It is a fake ideology with real consequences,” she said.

So many false and half-true things were said and so much misinformation spread, Driskell said.

“Masks work, the CDC has proven that. The mRNA vaccines work. No one ever promised total immunity but those vaccines do lessen the chance of infection and they increase the likelihood of a milder case if you do get sick, Driskell.

Driskell also pointed to when the state did shut down due to COVID-19 under the DeSantis administration.

“He seems to forget that he locked down the state in 2020, Ron DeSantis locked down Florida in 2020. He, like many other Republican and Democratic elected officials understood that we needed to do whatever we could to slow the spread and save lives. But now he runs from that history.”

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Issac Morgan
Issac Morgan

Issac Morgan is a 2009 graduate of Florida A&M University's School of Journalism, and a proud native of Tallahassee. He has covered city council and community events at the Gadsden County Times, worked as a sports news assistant at the Tallahassee Democrat, a communications specialist for the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and as a proofreader at the Florida Law Weekly.