Yesterday the Democratic commander-in-chief delivered a brief pandemic update from the White House in which he took veiled shots at Republican leaders who were opposed to his COVID health measures and said vaccine mandates shouldn’t ‘divide’ Americans.
‘Just think of Biden – he says “Don’t make the vaccines divisive.” Don’t make the vaccines divisive? You are trying to take people’s jobs away over this issue,’ DeSantis said at a press conference on Friday.
‘You are trying to plunge people into destitution. You are taking away their livelihoods – no one else is doing that. You are the one that’s being divisive about this’
During his six-minute address on Thursday Biden condemned spreading ‘misinformation’ about COVID vaccines the same week as he’s been criticized by Republicans who claim that his vaccine order was responsible for the massive delays that have plagued Southwest Airlines.
‘Let’s be clear, vaccination requirements should not be another issue that divides us,’ Biden said. ‘That’s why I continue to battle the misinformation out there.’
DeSantis responded directly to Biden’s Thursday White House address at his press conference today
‘School board members, religious leaders and doctors across the country are fighting misinformation and educating people about the importance of vaccines.’
In early September Biden implemented a sweeping vaccine mandate targeting more than 100 million people, or roughly a third of the entire US workforce.
He announced that all federal employees, and healthcare workers at hospitals receiving federal funds, would no longer be able to opt for weekly testing and would have to be vaccinated against COVID to keep their jobs.
On Thursday Biden called for an end to vaccine ‘misinformation’
Biden also ordered the Labor Department to draw up rules mandating all private companies with 100 or more employees either enact vaccine rules or require employees to submit to weekly COVID testing.
On Tuesday, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration submitted the proposed rule to the Office of Management and Budget, meaning those guidelines could be finalized within weeks.
The announcement sparked a swift Republican backlash, with a number of GOP governors either voicing opposition or moving against it.
Earlier this week Texas Governor Greg Abbott outlawed vaccine mandates in his state.
DeSantis presented a more direct challenge to Biden yesterday, vowing to take the president to court over the rule.
‘We are going to contest that immediately. We think the state of Florida has standing to do it,’ DeSantis said during a Thursday press conference at the Florida Department of Health at Lee County. ‘We also know businesses that we’re going to work with to contest it.’
DeSantis said the lawsuit would be filed in the 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals.
On Friday he was asked about hospitals in the Sunshine State that have already implemented vaccine mandates – and lost staff as a result.
‘No one should lose their jobs over these shots. I think we want to protect people’s jobs,’ DeSantis said. ‘These are folks that have been working throughout this whole time.’
‘They were put in situations where they exposing themselves to risk knowingly to help others and they did that, and we considered them heroes just a year ago. Now, you’re going to let them go by the wayside?’
The US grappled with a summer COVID surge that’s dropped off in recent weeks. New infections fueled by the Delta variant strained hospital systems around the country
Biden enacted his sweeping order to try and speed up the US rate of vaccinations, which dropped off sharply in June
Also this week DeSantis floated the possibility of passing a law to protect employees from being fired for not getting vaccinated, in addition to the existing rule for consumers.
He admitted on Tuesday that he probably couldn’t ‘unilaterally’ block employers from firing the unvaccinated with an executive order alone. He urged the state legislature to take the matter up instead.
‘I think you need a law to be able to just say you shouldn’t be terminated for this reason,’ DeSantis said.
COVID cases have dropped off in the US in recent weeks after a summer surge fueled by the highly contagious Delta variant.
At the same time, the vaccination rate has slowly crept up after slumping in the spring.
Florida was particularly hard hit during the pandemic. All the while DeSantis has consistently resisted statewide health precautions like mask rules and lockdowns.
At one point, Florida COVID cases made up one out of every five new infections in the country.