In the wake of President Joe Biden’s authoritarian pronouncement of a national COVID-19 vaccine mandate on Thursday, Republican governors across America vowed to fight back.
But among them, that battle may be more personal for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Although Biden did not mention DeSantis by name, the president clearly referred to DeSantis when he spelled out his plan for vaccines in schools.
“My plan also takes on elected officials and states that are undermining you and these lifesaving actions. Right now, local school officials are trying to keep children safe in a pandemic while their governor picks a fight with them and even threatens their salaries or their jobs,” Biden said. “Talk about bullying in schools. If they’ll not help — if these governors won’t help us beat the pandemic, I’ll use my power as President to get them out of the way.”
“The Department of Education has already begun to take legal action against states undermining protection that local school officials have ordered,” he continued. “Any teacher or school official whose pay is withheld for doing the right thing, we will have that pay restored by the federal government 100 percent. I promise you I will have your back.”
DeSantis’ office said he would not respond directly to Biden on Thursday.
But during a press conference earlier on Thursday, DeSantis commented on vaccine mandates, seemingly in anticipation of where Biden intended to go later that day.
DeSantis said he was concerned about the Biden administration forcing mandates on individuals and businesses, and promised to resist.
“How could we get to the point in the country where you would want to have someone lose their job because of their choice about the vaccine or not?” the governor said. “Maybe they’re making the wrong decision, but to put them out of work … and not let them earn a living because of this, I just think that that’s fundamentally wrong.”
DeSantis added that as the drive for vaccines becomes more “coercive,” people only feel more alienated, and actually makes people inclined to not get a shot.
DeSantis also noted something that was conspicuously absent from Biden’s comments: natural immunity from previous virus infection.
The governor said such immunity is not 100 percent, but still “very strong,” as studies have shown.
“They don’t recognize that. And I think that that’s not following the science,” said DeSantis.
“I don’t think they should impose it on any employees,” he continued. “The people that have had the higher vaccination rates in businesses have been ones that have had programs where they’re educating people, where they’re providing them all the information, showing some of the consequences.”
“I think forcing this, and in coercing people, I don’t think this is the right decision,” DeSantis added. “Congress has never legislated this. This would just be him doing it on his own, and that’s not, I think, the way to do it.”
On Thursday evening, DeSantis’ spokeswoman, Christian Pushaw, noted in a statement, “The constant stream of insults and threats from the White House is a desperate attempt to regain control of the Narrative and distract from the Biden Administration’s abject failures: Afghanistan, the border crisis, and the COVID-19 response.”
With DeSantis’ leadership, she added, Florida was the first state to deploy monoclonal antibody treatment sites to save the lives of high-risk COVID-19 patients, as 25 state-supported sites have opened around our state in less than a month, treating roughly 70,000 Floridians so far. The treatment has helped Florida become one of just nine states with falling hospitalization rates.
Biden, again without acknowledging DeSantis by name, referenced the Republican’s pioneering advocacy of monoclonal antibody treatment, noting that it reduces the risk of hospitalization for the unvaccinated by 70 percent. The remedy is so effective, said Biden, that he’s ramping up its production, boosting the 1.4 million doses already distributed by another 50 percent.
“It’s good to see that Biden is finally endorsing this life-saving treatment,” said Pushaw, “and he should have focused on that – instead of authoritarian and coercive mandates that are not even effective in stopping COVID-19.”
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