Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis swung back Wednesday after President Biden criticized his opposition to mask mandates, saying the administration should focus on stopping novel coronavirus variants from entering the country via the southern border.
“Joe Biden has taken to himself to try to single out Florida over COVID,” said Mr. DeSantis at a press conference in Panama City. “This is the guy who ran for president saying he was going to, quote, shut down the virus. What has he done? He’s imported more virus from around the world by having a wide-open southern border.”
Mr. DeSantis was just getting warmed up, saying that Mr. Biden was “not shutting down the virus, he’s helping to facilitate it in our country.”
“You have hundreds of thousands of people pouring across every month,” the governor said. “Not only are they letting them through, they’re then farming them out all across our communities across this country, putting them on planes, putting them on buses. Do you think they’re being worried about COVID for that? Of course not.”
He also had some advice for Mr. Biden: “Why don’t you do your job? Why don’t you get this border secure? And until you do that, I don’t want to hear a blip about COVID from you, thank you.”
His comments came a day after Mr. Biden lectured red-state governors who have prohibited mask mandates in schools despite the uptick in cases driven by the highly contagious delta variant.
“Look, we need leadership from everyone. If some governors aren’t willing to do the right thing to beat this pandemic, then they should allow businesses and universities who want to do the right thing to be able to do it,” Mr. Biden said. “I say to these governors, please help. But if you are not going to help, at least get out of the way of the people who are trying to do the right thing. Use your power to save lives.”
Asked about Florida and Texas, he said, “I believe the results of their decisions are not good for their constituents.”
“It’s clear to me and to most of the medical experts that the decisions being made, like not allowing mask mandates in school and the like, are bad health policy,” said Mr. Biden, according to the White House transcript.
The back-and-forth comes with the White House and Republican governors of two of the nation’s largest states at loggerheads over how to approach the recent surge.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki responded to Mr. DeSantis’s comments by tweeting that “23% of new COVID hospitalizations in the U.S are in Florida, and their hospitals are being overwhelmed again.”
“We are doing everything we can to help the people of FL, and they’re stepping up by getting vaccinated,” she said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reversed course on masking in its July 27 guidance, recommending that even fully vaccinated people wear masks indoors in high-transmission areas, and that K-12 students and staff wear masks to school regardless of vaccination status.
Mr. DeSantis said that he would stand as a bulwark against any efforts to implement another shutdown.
“Joe Biden suggests that if you don’t do lockdown policies, then you should quote get out of the way, but let me tell you this, if you’re coming after the rights of parents in Florida, I’m standing in your way. I’m not going to let you get away with it,” Mr. DeSantis said.
“If you’re trying to deny kids in-person education, I’m going to stand in your way,” he said. “If you’re trying to restrict people and impose mandates, if you’re trying to ruin their jobs and their livelihoods and their small business, if you are trying to lock people down, I am standing in your way and I am standing for the people of Florida.”