If the COVID pandemic rebounds to the point where authorities seek to bring back mask and vaccine mandates, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis wants to make sure his state isn't affected by what he calls the "biomedical security state." The Republican is seeking to make Florida's ban on COVID-related mandates permanent, the Hill reports. His "Prescribe Freedom" proposal seeks to permanently ban mask mandates across the state, including in schools, and ban employers from hiring and firing based on COVID vaccination status. According to an infographic from the governor's office, DeSantis also wants legislators to protect medical "freedom of speech," including the "right to disagree with the preferred narrative of the medical community."
"When the world lost its mind, Florida was a refuge of sanity, serving strongly as freedom's linchpin," the governor said. "These measures will ensure Florida remains this way and will provide landmark protections for free speech for medical practitioners." COVID-related policies approved by the GOP-dominated Florida legislature in 2021 are set to expire July 1 and DeSantis, who was sworn in for his second term earlier this month, said he will ask the legislature to make the "protections" permanent in its upcoming session, WPTV reports.
Democrats including state House Minority Leader Ron Fentrice Driskell criticized the move, noting that COVID has killed more than 84,000 people in Florida. "Masks work, the CDC has proven that. The mRNA vaccines work," Driskell said, per WPTV. DeSantis "has become the No. 1 peddler of a dangerous message from the anti-vax establishment," Driskell said. "It is a fake ideology with real consequences." (DeSantis has called for a grand jury investigation of alleged "wrongdoing" involving COVID vaccines.)