President Joe Biden on Tuesday called on resistant Republican governors to "get out of the way" of vaccine rules aimed at containing the more transmissible and dangerous COVID-19 variant. He backed city and private mandates requiring people to be vaccinated to go about some daily activities.
Speaking from the White House, Biden sharply criticized Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and other officials who have moved to block the reimposition of mask mandates to slow the delta strain of the virus. The strain is surging in their states and other parts of the country that have large numbers of unvaccinated people.
"If you’re not going to help, at least get out of the way of people trying to do the right thing," Biden said.
Biden endorsed New York City's move to require vaccinations to dine indoors or go to the gym, as well as corporate moves to require vaccines to return to work, and said more localities and businesses should follow suit. Such policies have been barred to varying degrees in at least seven GOP-led states.
Earlier Tuesday, DeSantis said Florida would not be taking any shutdown measures amid the increased hospitalizations.
"We're not shutting down, we're gonna have schools open, we're protecting every Floridian's job," DeSantis said at a news conference in Miami-Dade. "These interventions have failed time and time again throughout this pandemic, not just in the United States but abroad. They have not stopped the spread and particularly with Delta which is even more transmissable, if it didn't stop it before, it definitely ain't gonna stop it now."
A rise in infections in the U.S., fueled by the highly contagious delta strain of the virus, led U.S. public health officials last week to recommend that even people who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 resume wearing face coverings in some public indoor settings.
After months of dangling carrots of incentive to Americans to get vaccinated — including million- dollar cash lotteries and opportunities to earn free college tuition — the Biden administration is looking to wield a stick by making it harder for people to remain unvaccinated without seeing their daily lives disrupted.
Florida hit 11,515 hospitalized patients Tuesday, breaking last year's record for the third straight day and up from just 1,000 in mid-June.
DeSantis said he expects hospitalizations to drop in the next couple weeks, asserting that the spike is seasonal as Floridians spend more time together indoors to escape the summer heat and humidity.
DeSantis credited his response to COVID-19, which has focused on vaccinating seniors and nursing home residents, for the fact that fewer Floridians are dying now than last August. A year ago, Florida was averaging about 180 COVID-19 deaths per day during an early August spike, but last week averaged 58 per day. However, 2,400 COVID-19 patients are in an intensive care unit, and deaths general don't spike until a few weeks after hospitalizations.
“Even among a lot of positive tests, you are seeing much less mortality that you did year-over-year,” DeSantis said. "Would I rather have 5,000 cases among 20-year-olds or 500 cases among seniors? I would rather have the younger."
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