Gov. Ron DeSantis is calling on state lawmakers to permanently ban COVID-19 mandates on masks and vaccines.
He also wants the Legislature to pass a measure that would protect doctors who express their views on topics like vaccines.
The governor has long criticized the federal government and major medical organizations about mandates.
It was a focus during his first term in office, and he says it will continue to be at the top of his agenda as he begins his second term.
The governor announced the proposals at a news conference in Panama City Beach.
He was there with Florida’s Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo, an outspoken critic of COVID-19 vaccines who has repeatedly questioned their safety.
“I’m happy that we have a lot of consensus around this new legislation to really codify more common sense in Florida,” Ladapo said.
Together they also asked lawmakers to shield physicians from being disciplined for expressing their views on issues such as COVID-19.
A similar measure failed in Tallahassee last year. It did not specifically mention COVID-19. They say this one, called “Permanently Protecting Floridians from the ‘Biomedical Security State’” will.
The proposals include:
Permanently banning COVID-19 mask requirements
Permanently banning COVID-19 mask and vaccine requirements in all schools
Permanently banning COVID-19 vaccine passports
Permanently banning employers from hiring or firing based on whether a worker has gotten an MRNA vaccine
Lawmakers put some of those protections in place in a 2021 special session, this proposal, which the governor said he plans to pass in the upcoming legislative session in April, would make them permanent.
“We’re really excited to be able to make it very clear that we’re willing to lead the way,” DeSantis said. “I think these permanent reforms are going to be very very good. People will be able to have great peace of mind. Because you know I used to tell people during the election I said you have the CDC adding the COVID jabs to childhood immunization schedule. People are going to use that around this country to justify mandates. You watch it’s going to happen. And I said you don’t have to worry about that as long as I’m governor.”
House Minority Leader Fentrice Driskell criticized the governor’s announcement, pointing to the more than 84,000 COVID-19 deaths in Florida since the start of the pandemic.
She said DeSantis has become “the No. 1 peddler of a dangerous message from the anti-vax establishment.”
DeSantis is also proposing legislation that protects medical personnel who disagree with federal medical recommendations from agencies like the CDC.
The legislation will also protect religious views as well.
Local health professionals said they think this legislation will pass, even though they believe this is a political move that doesn’t protect Floridians.
Despite what Ladapo said, a local health expert said the proposals are the exact opposite of common sense.
“Don’t legislate against something today that we don’t know what will happen in the future. It’s only a political ploy,” said Dr. Jeffrey Goldhagen, chief of the division of community and societal pediatrics at the University of Florida. “Surgeon General Dr. Ladapo has been identified by many credible organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics as an example, as promoting non-evidence-based approaches to this disease that has, in fact directly and indirectly resulted in the deaths of 1000s of Floridians.”
Goldhagen said getting vaccines and wearing masks is a personal decision.
COVID is less prevalent today, but data shows people everywhere are still getting infected.
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