Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis lashed out at the Biden administration Thursday, following media reports the White House may seek domestic travel bans to counter new strains of COVID-19 from spreading nationwide.
“Any attempt to restrict or lock down Florida by the federal government would be an attack on our state, done purely for political purposes,” the Florida Republican said during press conference.
“It would be unconstitutional. It would be unwise and it would be unjust,” he added, saying the move was not based on science but rather a “political attack” against the people of Florida.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki was pressed during a Thursday press briefing about the administration’s alleged consideration of a domestic travel ban.
“We are always considering what steps are necessary to keep the American people safe, but we are not currently in the process of — no decisions have been made around additional public health measures that would delay or would change, I should say, domestic travel considerations,” Psaki said.
Florida relies heavily on tourism, which means any attempt to stop interstate travel could have vast repercussions on the Sunshine State.
But according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Florida leads in the number of cases of the new B.1.1.7 strain – a more highly infectious variant of the coronavirus, first reported in the U.K.
Health officials are worried the new strains of the coronavirus that have emerged could sideline progress made by the vaccine, as the new variants require different treatments and change “the effectiveness of current vaccines,” the CDC has warned.
But DeSantis pointed to progress the state has made since the summer, when Florida was seeing spiking caseloads.
“Florida’s cases per capita compared to the rest of the country – 28,” DeSantis said, adding that 27 other states were worse off than Florida in the number of coronavirus cases reported since early December. “Fatalities per capita, for this same period, Florida ranks 42,” he continued.
DeSantis also touted the state’s high vaccination rate, especially among seniors.
“We are now reporting about 1.6 million seniors that have recieved a shot, that’s about 35 percent of our gigantic senior population,” DeSantis said Thursday. “We are number one for shots for seniors.”
The Florida governor’s objection to a travel ban is a reversal of his stance from last year, when he enacted a two week quarantine for individuals coming from states with high infection rates like New York.