PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. – Gov. Ron DeSantis was in Florida on Tuesday to lay out a plan to permanently ban the COVID-19 vaccine and face masks.

He made the announcement while speaking at the Todd Herendin Theater in Panama City Beach, touting it as another of his 2023 legislative goals.

MORE: Death toll from COVID-19 rises as it remains leading cause of death

DeSantis said he seeks to protect Florida from what he calls a “biomedical security state,” condemning groups like the Centers for Disease Control and the Biden administration for their efforts to protect against the pandemic.

“When the world lost its mind, Florida was a haven of reason, serving strongly as a pillar of freedom,” DeSantis said. “These measures will ensure Florida remains that way and provide landmark free speech protections for medical practitioners.”

If approved by lawmakers, DeSantis’ effort would permanently limit the rules on COVID-19 vaccinations and face masks in schools and prevent public and private employers from hiring and firing based on the status of an mRNA shot.

DeSantis laid out the policy, which he said would:

  • Permanently ban Florida-wide COVID-19 mask requirements
  • Permanently ban the COVID-19 vaccine and mask requirement in all schools
  • Permanently ban Florida’s COVID-19 vaccine passports
  • Permanently prohibit employers from hiring or firing based on mRNA vaccines

The governor said the policy would also protect medical free speech, including:

  • Protect the freedom of speech of doctors
  • Defend the right to disagree with the preferred version of the medical community
  • Protect the religious views of medical professionals

Previous policies related to COVID-19 approved by the Florida Legislature in 2021 end on July 1.

“We need to lead this by making all of these protections permanent in the Florida statute, which we’re going to pass in the upcoming legislative session,” DeSantis said.

DeSantis was joined by Rep. Dr. Neil Dunn, R-Fla., CFO Jimmy Patronis and Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo.

Democrats said they have serious concerns about the governor’s policies regarding COVID-19.

House Minority Leader Fentress Driskel, R-Tampa, said she worries that people will suffer without protection from COVID-19 and that misinformation about the virus will increase.

“Eighty-four thousand plus dead Florida residents and growing,” Driskell said. “Masks work, the CDC has proven it. mRNA vaccines work.”

Driskel said the governor’s message is dangerous for Florida.

“Ron DeSantis — what we’ve seen today — he’s become the No. 1 purveyor of dangerous messages from the anti-vax establishment,” Driskell said. “It’s a bogus ideology with real consequences.”

With Florida Republicans holding supermajorities in both houses of the legislature, the governor’s policies are likely to gain traction, if not easily approved.

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