PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. – Following a report that the White House is examining possible U.S. travel restrictions to curb the growing number of COVID-19 variant cases, Gov. Ron DeSantis lashed out at the idea saying it “would purely be a political attack against the people of Florida.”
“Any attempt to restrict by the federal government would be an attack on our state done purely for political purposes,” DeSantis said Thursday at the start of a news conference in Port Charlotte.
The Miami Herald reported Wednesday the Biden administration is considering domestic travel restrictions as new variants, including the more contagious variant first identified in the United Kingdom, continue to surge. Florida has more than 340 reported cases of the U.K. variant known as B.1.1.7., more than any other state. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is also tracking variants from South Africa and Brazil.
“To be clear, there have been no decisions made around additional public health measures for domestic travel safety,” a White House spokesperson told WKMG. “The administration is continuing to discuss recommendations across the travel space, but no specific decisions are under consideration.”
Florida was not targeted specifically during these discussions.
DeSantis said any travel restrictions on Floridians would be “unconstitutional.”
“Restricting the right of Americans to travel freely throughout our country, while allowing illegal aliens to pour across the southern border unmolested would be ridiculous, but very damaging farce,” DeSantis claimed.
Not mentioning that Florida has more U.K. variant cases than another state, the governor highlighted the state’s success reopening schools for in-person learning and its decreasing coronavirus hospitalizations.
“Since December, the last couple of months, Florida’s cases per capita compared to the rest of the country, (is) 28. Twenty-seven other states higher per capita cases, and for the bulk for the entire pandemic it’s a similar story,” DeSantis said.
No official plans for restrictions have been made public from the Biden administration but there are international restrictions currently in place.
Since beginning his term, President Joe Biden reinstituted restrictions on travelers from more than two dozen European countries, South Africa and Brazil, while people leaving the U.S. are now required to show a negative test before returning.
If Floridians are restricted from entering or leaving the state, DeSantis said he will challenge those.
“We’ve had to stand by Floridians throughout time and again, and we will do so. Going forward, we will not back down. And if anyone tries to to harm Floridians or target us, you know, we will we will respond very swiftly,” the governor said.
Federal and local health officials say the growing variants threaten to undo the work of vaccinating millions of American.
Epidemiologist Alvina Chu with the Orange County, Florida Department of Health said Monday during a COVID-19 update the virus has one goal: to spread and infect as many people as possible and some variants can aid the virus.
The variants “gain these advantages that either make them more virulent, or deadly to people, or that they gain a better way to infect people or spread faster,” Chu said. “The more that they spread and the faster they spread, the harder it is for us to be able to control the pandemic with our vaccinations.”
That means every COVID-19 infection is giving the virus a chance to mutate, creating possibly other variants.
“Until everyone is protected, no one is protected because every infection allows for the genetic mutations to occur,” Chu said.