Jen Psaki Says Ron DeSantis Has ‘Consistently Taken Steps to Take Steps Backwards’ with Pandemic Response

MIAMI, FL - JUNE 08: Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is seen during a press conference relating hurricane season updates at the Miami-Dade Emergency Operations Center on June 8, 2020 in Miami, Florida. NOAA has predicted that this year's Atlantic hurricane season will be more active than usual with up to …
Eva Marie Uzcategui/Getty Images

White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Monday took a shot at Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), who recently signed legislation to protect Florida workers from losing their jobs over coronavirus vaccines, accusing him of “consistently” taking steps “backwards” in terms of his pandemic response.

She made the remarks even as Florida continues to have the lowest coronavirus case rate per capita in the nation.

In response to an inquiry about Disney rolling back its vaccine mandate on employees, and what the Biden administration could do about companies taking similar action going forward, Psaki said, “They’re based in Florida, and obviously the governor there has consistently taken steps to take steps backwards as it relates to fighting the pandemic, not forward.”

Her remark follows DeSantis’s move last week, when he signed legislation to protect Floridians from losing their livelihoods over vaccine mandates.

“We’re making sure that people have a right to earn a living. People have a right to have protections in their place of employment,” the governor said during a press conference in Brandon, Florida — an obvious nod to the “Let’s Go, Brandon!” movement sweeping the country.

 “And if you look at what we’re doing today, Florida is leading. This is the strongest piece of legislation that’s been enacted anywhere in the country in this regard, and we’re awfully proud to be able to it here today at Brandon Honda,” he said, detailing what the legislation does.
While it requires companies to provide religious and medical exemptions for the mandate, it also recognizes natural immunity, allowing it to stand as one of the automatic exemptions.

The legislature’s summary of the measures DeSantis signed are as follows:

HB 1B/SB 2B: Protects students, parents, workers and employers in our state by creating a framework for employees to make the best decision for their health and affirming the rights of parents to make health care decisions for their children. The bill prohibits COVID-19 vaccination mandates for employees in government and public education and protects parental choice on masks, vaccines and quarantine. Specifically, the legislation prohibits private-sector employers from having a COVID-19 vaccination mandate for employees without providing at least the five following individual exemptions:

1. Medical reasons, as determined by a physician, advanced practice registered nurse, or
physician assistant. Medical reasons include pregnancy or expectation of pregnancy.

2. Religious reasons, based on a sincerely held belief

3. Immunity based on prior COVID19 infection, as documented by a lab test

4. Periodic testing, agreeing to comply with regular testing at no cost to the employee

5. Personal protective equipment (PPE), agreeing to comply with use of employerprovided PPE

HB 3B/SB 4B: Creates a public records exemption for information, including personal medical information and religious information, contained in files created during an investigation of an employer who refuses to provide individual exemptions from COVID-19 vaccination requirements.

HB 5B/SB 6B: Directs the Executive Office of the Governor to review options for the State of Florida to take responsibility over our own workers’ occupational safety and health issues in light of the misuse of OSHA by the Biden Administration.

HB 7B/SB 8B: Repeals the authority of the state Surgeon General to mandate vaccinations.

Following DeSantis’s move, Disney paused its mandatory vaccine requirement for employees, although it told the Washington Post that the “approach to mandatory vaccines has been the right one.”

Despite Psaki’s assertion that DeSantis has taken steps backwards in the pandemic, Florida continues to have the lowest coronavirus case rate per capita in the nation, sitting at six as of Tuesday.

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