Florida Governor Ron DeSantis continues his efforts to undermine vaccinations. The Republican governor is now threatening to fine any city or state agency in Florida that requires vaccines for workers.
During a Monday briefing, DeSantis said any government agency that mandates vaccines will be fined $5,000 per infraction. The threat is in reaction to President Biden’s executive order mandating vaccinations for all employers with more than 100 workers.
DeSantis’ push against the vaccine mandate was predictable, given how ardently he has battled against mask-wearing requirements. He had threatened to withhold salaries from members of school boards across the state that called for mask mandates for students and teachers. Officials in Broward County, who have imposed a mask mandate in their schools despite DeSantis’ threats, say the governor is holding up the release of close to $500 million in federal education dollars.
DeSantis shared the stage with several people who reportedly shared anti-vaccine sentiment during Monday’s announcement, which was broadcast on the state taxpayer-funded Florida Channel.
For months DeSantis and his office have pushed back against any suggestion that the governor wasn’t doing enough to promote the vaccine.— Steve Contorno (@scontorno) September 13, 2021
Today, he is standing next to people sharing anti-vax conspiracies in a press conference that is airing on taxpayer funded Florida Channel.
The U.S. Dept. of Education is launching an investigation into DeSantis’ handling of mask mandates.
Meanwhile, Florida has, in just less than nine months, already recorded more COVID-related deaths in 2021 than it had in all of 2020. Since the delta variant-fueled surge began in June, some 54,000 people have died from COVID-19. Nearly 1 in 5 of those deaths have come in the state of Florida.
DeSantis continues to travel out-of-state to boost his national profile in what some believe is groundwork for a 2024 presidential run. He traveled to Nebraska this weekend to speak at an event that featured several potential contenders for the GOP presidential ticket. DeSantis gave a fairly predictable speech where he criticized Biden’s vaccine mandate, appeasing the crowd be declaring he will be “fighting back against him.”
More from Politico on DeSantis’ national ambitions:
DeSantis’s trip to Nebraska is part of his ongoing split-screen effort as he prepares for his reelection back home while laying the groundwork for a White House bid if former President Donald Trump sits out the 2024 contest. His emerging national presence has made him a top target for Democrats in 2022 as well as Biden — but so far he’s been basking in his moment.
His visit to the Midwest is one of at least a dozen out of state trips he’s taken since May. He has gone everywhere from Southern California to Kentucky to the outskirts of Milwaukee and to New Jersey. Since most are campaign visits, they are not included on his public schedule and the governor rarely informs the public of his out-of-state travel. He also visited the Texas-Mexico border in July with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, where they ripped President Joe Biden’s immigration policies.
DeSantis’ highly public stance against mask mandates and now vaccine requirements made him a poster boy for GOP resistance to the vaccine rollout and further increased the chances he will make a run at the White House in 2024. But one recent poll showed the Florida governor may have peaked. He was narrowly ahead of former Vice-President Mike Pence, 25-23 in a primary, provided Donald Trump doesn’t run again, according to the poll by right-leaning Echelon Insights. That’s a 7-point decline for DeSantis in just a month.
An even more recent poll by Morning Consult Political Intelligence showed that DeSantis’ battle against masks in schools is hurting his standing in his own state. The poll shows his net approval rating in Florida had dropped 14 points between early July and late August. Some wonder if DeSantis’ focus on boosting his national profile may wind up hurting his 2022 re-election chances. But it should be noted that he is on pace to raise about $150 million for his gubernatorial re-election campaign.