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Pointing out the more than 84,000 COVID-19 deaths in Florida since the start of the pandemic, House Minority Leader Fentrice Driskell opposes what she calls DeSantis’ “dangerous message from the anti-vax establishment.”

Gov. Ron DeSantis has announced plans to permanently eliminate COVID-19 mandates in Florida during the upcoming 2023 legislative session, which begins in March.

The governor, who has long opposed the federal government and major medical organizations on COVID-19 mandates, announced the proposals Tuesday at a news conference in Panama City Beach. Florida’s Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo, a vocal critic of COVID-19 vaccines who has questioned their safety, joined the governor during his announcement.

DeSantis’ new bill is similar to legislation the governor signed in 2021, which banned mask and vaccine mandates in Florida through June 2023. The new bill is called “Permanently Protecting Floridians from the ‘Biomedical Security State.’” The event at which it was announced was called “Prescribe Freedom.”

RELATED: DeSantis Continues War Against Life-Saving Covid Vaccines, Calls for Grand Jury Investigation

Although details are scant, as no legislation has yet been filed, the bill’s proposals include: 

  • Permanently banning COVID-19 mask requirements
  • Permanently banning employers from hiring or firing based on whether a worker has gotten an mMRNA vaccine
  • Permanently banning COVID-19 mask and vaccine requirements in all schools
  • Permanently banning COVID-19 vaccine passports

A Dangerous Turn

Pointing out the more than 84,000 COVID-19 deaths in Florida since the start of the pandemic, Democratic House Minority Leader Fentrice Driskell raised her voice in opposition to what she calls DeSantis’ “dangerous message from the anti-vax establishment.” 

“Patients need a doctor to give sound medical counsel, not fringe political feels,” Driskell said to reporters. 

“Masks work, the CDC has proven that. The mRNA vaccines work. No one ever promised total immunity, but those vaccines do lessen the chance of infection and they increase the likelihood of a milder case if you do get sick,” Driskell said, as she urged Floridians to get booster doses. 

Driskell also called out DeSantis for using these divisive issues to further his political ambitions. Although the Republican incumbent has not confirmed it, many believe DeSantis will run for the presidency in 2024 and is campaigning to his conservative base. 

RELATED: Two Years After Jan. 6, There Are More Than 150 Election Deniers in the House Republican Majority

“This is more grievance-mongering […] by Gov. Ron DeSantis,” Driskell added. “Florida has been hamstrung by a political campaign response to a public health crisis.” 

Sticking to His Guns

COVID-19 vaccinations and masks are a hot issue among Republican voters nationally. Only 37% of Republicans say they are vaccinated and boosted, compared with 74% of voters who identify as Democrats, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation’s COVID-19 Vaccine Monitor.

“I think these permanent reforms are going to be very very good,” DeSantis said to the crowd. “You watch, it’s going to happen.”

Republicans in Florida now have a supermajority in both chambers, which means they can pass legislation without the need of Democratic support.

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