Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is proposing legislation to permanently ban Covid health measures aimed at mitigating the virus in the state.
The legislation would prohibit vaccine and mask requirements in schools, mask requirements at businesses and the so-called vaccine passports showing proof of vaccinations. It would also bar employers from hiring or firing employees based on whether they have been vaccinated, and would prohibit the firing or de-licensing of medical professionals who might disagree on Covid protocols.
“When the world lost its mind, Florida was a refuge of sanity, serving strongly as freedom’s linchpin,” DeSantis said in a press release. “These measures will ensure Florida remains this way and will provide landmark protections for free speech for medical practitioners.”
DeSantis has been a vocal opponent of pandemic health measures despite his initial support for vaccines, which he once called lifesaving, in 2021.
The Florida governor, who is mulling whether to challenge Donald Trump in the 2024 Republican primary for president, showed last month that he is positioning himself to the right of the former president on the issue of Covid vaccines.
During a roundtable he convened of Covid vaccine skeptics and opponents — including his own surgeon general — DeSantis formally called on the state Supreme Court to impanel a grand jury to investigate whether pharmaceutical companies criminally misled Floridians about the side effects of vaccines. The move, which is at odds with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, was also widely panned among figures in Trump’s orbit.
The Florida Supreme Court approved DeSantis’ request late last month.
DeSantis first drew ire from Trump last year when he refused to say whether he received a Covid booster shot. The former president, whose Operation Warp Speed accelerated the development of vaccines amid the pandemic, appeared to slam politicians such as DeSantis who refused to say whether they received a booster shot by calling them “gutless.”
In 2021, DeSantis signed legislation that imposed fines on employers who require Covid vaccinations, and banned vaccine mandates from government entities and educational institutions. He also signed an executive order that curtailed the use of vaccine passports.