Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) slammed President Joe Biden during a news conference on Monday over the Biden administration’s actions relating to the pandemic, saying that what Biden is doing is anti-science.
The remarks come after DeSantis was praised by Jayanta Bhattacharya, professor of medicine at the University of Stanford, who said that DeSantis was unlike any politician he has ever met. “He’s extraordinary,” Bhattacharya said, adding that DeSantis understands the science better than “most epidemiologists.”
DeSantis made the remarks during a ceremony where he signed a bill that “ensures that neither the state nor local governments can close business or keep kids out of in-person instruction, unless they satisfy demanding and continuous justifications” and also limits the power of local authorities to implement local emergency orders. The bill also gives him the power to invalidate any local emergency order in the state.
“I think there have been two very harmful things that have been done recently, in terms of increasing vaccine hesitancy,” DeSantis said. “The first was how the FDA and CDC handled the Johnson and Johnson [vaccine]. Look, when you’re dealing with these vaccines, you always want to see if there’s an issue. You can put out appropriate warnings, particularly if it’s for a certain demographic, but by hastily taking it effectively off the market, I think that that’s caused confidence in, at least that vaccine, to plummet. And that was a very high demand vaccine prior to that happening. So, I think that was handled in a way that has increased the hesitancy of people to get the vaccine.”
“And then I think the other thing, quite frankly, is when you have people, particularly in Washington, saying, ‘Yeah, get vaccinated, but then make sure you continue to social distance and wear masks all the time,’ well, the message that that sends to people is that the vaccines don’t work,” DeSantis continued. “Because if the vaccines worked, that would be your ticket to basically live normally, and make decisions for yourself. That would be the message that actually would work with people. So, I think that they’ve sent a message to say, ‘You know what? Get vaccinated, but it really isn’t going to do anything for you.'”
“Well, why would someone want to put something in their arm if they don’t think it’s effective?” DeSantis added. “And the fact of the matter is, that is an anti-science posture, to say that we need all these restrictions even with mass vaccination. Because the numbers of the vaccines are better than the clinical trials were, in terms of the effectiveness. If you look at CDC, I think they have over 95 million people have now been vaccinated. The people that have been re-infected or infected after vaccine, has been way less than one-tenth of 1%. These numbers are about as good as you could possibly hope for. So my message is the vaccines protect you, get vaccinated, and then live your life as if you’re protected. You don’t have to chafe under restrictions infinitum.”
TRANSCRIPT PROVIDED VIA REV:
RON DESANTIS, GOVERNOR OF FLORIDA: Got everybody? Here they come. Well, it’s great to be at the Big Catch and be here in St. Petersburg. I want to thank our legislators who are here, President Simpson, Chris Sprowls, speaker. We also have Danny Burgess, Tom Lee, Nick DiCeglie, Linda Chaney, and Tracy Koster. And I want to thank all of them for doing a great job during this legislative session. We’re here to do one of the bills that I think it is worth pointing out, that there was a whole host of successes in this legislative session. If you look at some of the things we’ve been working on with education, with environmental restoration, if you look at mental health, if you look at the health of our budget.
A year ago, people were saying we were in dire straits, that this was just got to be something that we weren’t going to be able to recover from. We’ve doubled the rainy day fund, we have 9.2 billion in total reserves. So, it was a budget that really is meeting, I think, a lot of the needs of our state, but also doing it in a very responsible way, and in a way that actually makes us more resilient to deal with future downturns. So, I want to thank them for their efforts on that.
One of the things that we spoke about very early on, both with the speaker and President Simpson, was we need a new construct for these emergency powers that have been used throughout the country, lesser so, obviously from the State of Florida’s perspective, but certainly we’ve had local governments do it. If you would have told us three years ago, when I was running for governor, “Hey, there’s going to be a pandemic,” that would have obviously been something that people would have been concerned about. But I don’t think anyone at that time would have thought that the fact that you would have a pandemic, would allow governors to seize power to lock kids out of school for a year, to lock businesses down, to constantly be issuing edicts, restricting people, fining people, doing all this basically infinitum. I think maybe people thought there would be a small time, but to be doing that was something that, I certainly wouldn’t have foreseen that that would have been acceptable.
Now in the State of Florida, we worked very hard particularly since the summer, to jettison those types of policies, and we focused on lifting people up. We wanted people going back to work, we wanted our kids to be in school, we thought that that was very important that parents have the ability to send their kids to school. And we wanted our economy to be healthy, we wanted our society to be healthy. We wanted people to be happy living in Florida, and so that was the path that we trotted. It was the road less traveled at the time, but I think we’re sitting here now and we see the state’s much more prosperous as a result of that, and that was the right way.
At the same time, you look around and there have been areas that have been under the yoke of some serious restrictions and lockdowns for months, and months, and months on end. In fact, you have local governments in other parts of the country, they just did, I read Brookline, Massachusetts did an outdoor mask mandate, or extended that. Even the CDC says that doesn’t make a difference. Washington DC just banned dancing at weddings, so they’re literally going to have law enforcement there, policing people’s weddings that say you can’t dance, when this is the day you’ve been waiting for? It’s insane.
And so, I think what the legislature did was very thoughtful, it has my full support. It not only reins in the ability of local governments to do this stuff, it provides more check against the State, which I fully support. They didn’t need to use these checks against me because I was using this much more judiciously. And in fact if you look, our emergency order has basically been in place to do three main things since the summer: keep schools open, because we needed the emergency to be able to help the funding for the schools, move money in case of vaccine or any type of response that we’ve had to do, and then more recently, to make sure that we can’t have vaccine passports in the State of Florida. That’s really it, that’s how we’ve used it. But I think the legislature looked and said, “Well, okay, what if we weren’t a California situation? What would the legislature’s ability be?” And so, they put safeguards for the people of Florida, where the legislature would be able to come in and potentially overrule any type of executive order, emergency order issued by a governor. And I support that.
And my staff, I remember we were talking about, “Why would you want them to be able to potentially do that?” I said, “You know what? If I’m issuing orders, that these guys are willing to call themselves back into Tallahassee, into some special session to be able to overrule them, maybe I need to reevaluate what we’re doing,” and any other governor should have to do that as well. But I think most importantly was the protections this provides for families, for workers and for businesses. The legislation creates a default legal presumption that during any emergency, our businesses should be free from government mandates to close, and our schools should remain open for in-person instruction for our children.
That actually was the pre-COVID pandemic playbook. No one advocated a year-long restriction or lockdown on business or schools like we’ve seen in these other states. And I think over the last years, we’ve seen some of the abuses, we want to make sure that we stop that here. Here at the Big Catch, they’ve had to deal with some of these local ordinances, local restrictions. We’re going to have John come up and talk about, I know they’ve been fined for doing things, and we want that to be something in the past. Now, since last summer we’ve said no on individuals, and that’s something we suspended in March. I remitted any outstanding fines for both individuals and businesses. I’m here to tell you at our next clemency meeting, if there’s any other outstanding fines on either individuals or businesses, we’ll remit that also.
Nevertheless, we are here for this bill signing. And I think that the approach here is showing Florida leading the way again, because I think there’s other states that are probably going a different direction, but here’s some of the highlights. “The bill ensures that neither the state nor local governments can close business or keep kids out of in-person instruction, unless they satisfy demanding and continuous justifications.” One of the things I think has been so problematic about this, is that there are different policies that have been enacted, particularly in other parts of the country, different restrictions or mandates. And they’re done, and then even when the evidence refutes the effectiveness, or the need, or the justification for them, they continue on and sometimes they’re even re-upped. This changes that and make sure that people are protected.
It also says that, “Any local emergency order, excluding hurricane emergencies are capped at seven day increments, and may only be extended to a maximum duration of 42 days.” And most importantly as governor, I’ll have the authority to invalidate a local emergency order, if it unnecessarily restricts individual rights or liberties. So what we’re doing, and I think also where we find ourselves today in the State of Florida, we have a majority of our adult population has been vaccinated. At this point, the people that haven’t been vaccinated is certainly not because a lack of supply or a lack of availability.
At the end of December, beginning of January, we had millions of people that wanted it, we had hundreds of thousands of doses. We’ve worked through the high demand population, particularly the seniors, over 80% have received shots. As you go further down the age bracket, the demand is simply less. But we have more than enough vaccine, if you want a vaccine, you have an ability to get it. I think then that the retail footprint alone is tremendous in the State of Florida. And I know some other things folks are trying to figure out, okay, how do we move these vaccines now?
I think there have been two very harmful things that have been done recently, in terms of increasing vaccine hesitancy. The first was how the FDA and CDC handled the Johnson and Johnson. Look, when you’re dealing with these vaccines, you always want to see if there’s an issue. You can put out appropriate warnings, particularly if it’s for a certain demographic, but by hastily taking it effectively off the market, I think that that’s caused confidence in at least that vaccine, to plummet. And that was a very high demand vaccine prior to that happening. So, I think that was handled in a way that has increased the hesitancy of people to get the vaccine.
And then I think the other thing quite frankly is, when you have people particularly in Washington saying, “Yeah, get vaccinated, but then make sure you continue to social distance and wear masks all the time,” well, the message that that sends to people is that the vaccines don’t work. Because if the vaccines worked, that would be your ticket to basically live normally, and make decisions for yourself. That would be the message that actually would work with people. So, I think that they’ve sent a message to say, “You know what? Get vaccinated, but it really isn’t going to do anything for you.” Well, why would someone want to put something in their arm if they don’t think it’s effective?
And the fact of the matter is, that is an anti-science posture, to say that we need all these restrictions even with mass vaccination. Because the numbers of the vaccines are better than the clinical trials were, in terms of the effectiveness. If you look at CDC, I think they have over 95 million people have now been vaccinated. The people that have been reinfected or infected after vaccine, has been way less than one 10th of 1%. These numbers are about as good as you could possibly hope for. So my message is the vaccines protect you, get vaccinated, and then live your life as if you’re protected. You don’t have to chafe under restrictions infinitum. So I’m hoping that we’re going to be able to get a little bit more uptake. We are going to be doing PSAs. I know we’ve started some of that, to basically send the message that this is good. Even if you’re a lower risk, I think that this vaccine has been so effective that even a low risk person dramatically reduces it. So we want to be able to do that, but we are happy that we have so many different options for vaccines.
And look, our goal was seniors first. We’re seeing that pay off with the hospitalization rates for seniors. That would not have happened, I think, had we taken another path and put seniors either second or third in line. So we’re happy with doing that. So now today I’m going to let the legislatures come up. But what I’m going to do, I’m going to sign the bill. It’s effective July 1st. I’ll also sign an executive order pursuant to that bill invalidating all remaining local emergency COVID orders, effective on July 1st. But then to bridge the gap between then and now, I’m going to suspend, under my executive power, the local emergency orders as it relates to COVID. I think that’s the evidence-based thing to do. I think folks that are saying that they need to be policing people at this point, if you’re saying that, you really are saying you don’t believe in the vaccines, you don’t believe in the data, you don’t believe in the science.
We’ve embraced the vaccines. We’ve embraced the science on it. The data I’ve said has been good from the beginning in terms of clinical trials. It’s even better in real life. So it’s available, we want everyone to get it. And if you get it, just know that the reason you get it is because we want to be able to have people enjoy themselves and live freely in the state of Florida. So thank you guys for doing this. I think that this was something that we don’t know what’s going to happen in the future, but I think this creates a structure that’s going to be a little bit more respectful, I think, of people’s businesses, jobs, schools, and personal freedom. So Senator Simpson?