Top elected officials in Florida are slamming President Joe Biden‘s administration, following reports that the White House is considering imposing domestic travel restrictions on the state, which has the most reported case of the ‘UK variant’ coronavirus.
‘Any attempt to restrict or lock down Florida by the federal government would be an attack on our state done purely for political purposes,’ said Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, a Republican, at a press conference on Thursday.
‘I think it’s an absurd report that they would be doing that, I think it would be unconstitutional, it would be unwise and it would be unjust,’ he said.
Asked about the possible domestic travel ban, White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said only: ‘No decisions have been made around additional public health measures that would change domestic travel.’
‘Any attempt to restrict or lock down Florida by the federal government would be an attack on our state done purely for political purposes,’ DeSantis (left) said on Thursday
Biden’s press secretary said that ‘no decisions’ have been made on policies that would affect domestic travel. The White House is meeting with airline heads on Friday
DeSantis pointed out that new cases of COVID-19 have been declining for more than a month, and said the state ranked 28th in the U.S. for cases per capita dating back to December.
He did not specifically mention the rise in variant cases. Florida now has more than 300 confirmed cases of the B117 variant first identified in the UK, which is said to be up to 70 percent more contagious than other strains of the virus.
California, the most populous state, has the next highest number of confirmed variant cases, with more than 150.
DeSantis slammed the rumored restrictions targeting Florida, saying that they were out of step with Biden’s views on border controls.
‘If you think about it, restricting the right of Americans to travel freely throughout our country while allowing illegal aliens to pour across the southern border unmolested would be a ridiculous but very damaging farce,’ DeSantis said.
‘So we will oppose it 100 percent. It would not be based in science, it would purely be a political attack against the people of Florida.’
A third of the confirmed cases of the B117 variant in the US have been detected in Forida
Daily totals of new cases in Florida have been trending down for the past month
Weekly numbers show new cases in Florida have been dropping steadily since early January
Senator Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican, also ridiculed potential domestic travel bans as unconstitutional.
‘Tonight if you arrive at the U.S. southern border with a child, you will be allowed entry into the country,’ Rubio told Fox News host Tucker Carlson. ‘But if you are now an American citizen living in Florida who wants to travel, they are going to put some form of restriction in your way? It’s clearly unconstitutional.’
‘I think they are trying to punish Florida. I think they’re embarrassed by what Florida has done. Florida has embarrassed California, Florida has embarrassed New York,’ Rubio continued.
‘It hosted a Super Bowl with actual people in the stands. The predictions about Florida didn’t come true, and they’re like, we can’t let this stand.’
Rubio also said that Congress ‘should also pass a law making it clear that this is not within the power of an administration to do.’
It came after the White House told Reuters that ‘the administration is continuing to discuss recommendations across the travel space, but no specific decisions are under consideration.’
Senator Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican, also ridiculed potential domestic travel bans as unconstitutional in an interview with Fox News host Tucker Carlson
On Friday, the chief executives of major U.S. airlines were scheduled to meet virtually with the White House’s COVID-19 response coordinator to discuss travel-related issues.
One key issue for the meeting with coronavirus response coordinator Jeff Zients will be the possibility of extending mandatory COVID-19 testing to all domestic flights.
Airlines, aviation unions and other industry groups have strongly objected to mandatory testing before boarding domestic flights, saying it will further damage the battered industry.
U.S. officials told Reuters that it does not appear the administration will move forward with requiring domestic testing at this point, but stressed officials could revisit the idea if conditions changed.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last month said the Biden administration was ‘actively looking’ at expanding mandatory COVID-19 testing to U.S. domestic flights.
Asked about the possible domestic travel ban, White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said: ‘No decisions have been made around additional public health measures that would change domestic travel’
On January 26, the CDC began requiring negative COVID-19 tests or evidence of recovery from the disease from nearly all U.S.-bound international passengers age 2 and older.
Southwest Airlines Co Chief Executive Gary Kelly and the leaders of the airline’s unions urged President Joe Biden in a letter not to mandate COVID-19 testing, saying it would put ‘jobs at risk.’
The U.S. airline industry has been hard hit by a decline in travel demand, which remains down 66 percent from pre-COVID 19 levels.
One idea that has been under review within the Biden administration is for the CDC to issue recommendations advising against travel to areas of the United States with high COVID-19 caseloads, but no decisions have been made and recommendations would not be binding, officials said.
CDC officials have repeatedly urged Americans not to travel unless necessary.