Gov. DeSantis angry over reports White House mulling new travel restrictions
ORLANDO, Fla. - Florida Governor Ron DeSantis was not mincing his words, in response to a new idea of restricting domestic travel in places like Florida.
"We will oppose it 100%! It would not be based on science. It would purely be a political attack against the people of Florida," he said about reports that the White House is worried about the spread of new, more contagious COVID variants in the Sunshine State and other states.
Gov. DeSantis is against it, saying Florida is doing well compared to other states, citing the state’s success in vaccinating seniors among other accomplishments.
"We’ve had to stand by Floridians over these many, many months. Even in difficult circumstances, even when it was not easy to do. We’ve saved their jobs, time and time again. We’ve preserved small businesses time and time again and we preserved the right of parents to send their kids to school in person," DeSantis said.
RELATED: Travel restrictions considered as COVID-19 variant surges in Florida
Political analysts said that during the last administration, President Donald Trump and Gov. DeSantis had a close relationship. They said that now that is in the past and this is an opportunity for the state's Republican leaders to prove themselves to the party's base.
"They are each looking to build some momentum within the Republican party, so this is a really good opportunity for a Republican who's interested in the presidency in 2024 to pick a fight with an incumbent Democrat," said Prof. John Hanley, from the UCF Department of Political Science.
However, some Democrats are also speaking out against the report about possible travel restrictions.
"Almost all of the metropolitan areas are seeing significant declines at this point, so I don’t believe that that’s necessary," said Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings.
Republican Senator Rubio already sent a letter to the president saying there are better ways to combat the problem, like providing more vaccines. Doctors echo that sentiment.
"Right now, there are people who are standing in line and don't know where to get their vaccine and are waiting on a vaccine," said Dr. Jason Littleton, an Orlando Physician. "Increasing the uptick in production can be very helpful with that so those that want to get vaccinated have that opportunity."
Should travel restrictions be enacted, there are questions about how this would be enforced. Last year, travel was limited between Florida and New York and also between New Jersey and Connecticut.
"Are you going to set up borders to keep people from driving in? Keep people from flying in? If there’s a way to get around something, people will figure it out," said Greater Orlando Aviation Authority Chief Executive Phil Brown.
Last spring, Gov. DeSantis required travelers from COVID-19 hotspots outside the state to self-isolate if they came to Florida. He also authorized the Florida Highway Patrol and local law enforcement agencies to establish checkpoints along interstates at Florida's border. The restrictions did not affect commercial drivers.
RELATED: 'Don't come here': Governor authorizes checkpoints at state lines to keep travelers from COVID-19 'epicenters' out
Florida officials worry travel restrictions would damage Florida’s already fractured tourism industry. Orange County’s tourist development tax dollars from December 2020 were down 59% from the previous December, and the Orlando International Airport has been trying to make a comeback.
"We are fast approaching the same number of destinations domestically that we had pre-COVID. That’s where our business is from, our air travel, so if there’s a ban on travel to Florida it’s obviously going to have an impact," said Brown.
Officials have also questioned whether this would stop the spread of the U.K. variant, considering the variant has already been confirmed in several states across the country.
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