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DeSantis pushes back as White House considers domestic travel restrictions to slow variant surge

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. – Gov. Ron DeSantis on Thursday was critical of the White House, which is reportedly considering domestic travel restrictions for Florida and other states where there has been an increase in coronavirus variants.

“I think it’s an absurd report that they would be doing that. I think it would be unconstitutional, it would be unwise and it would be unjust,” DeSantis said during a news conference in Port Charlotte. “And if you think about it, restricting the right of Americans to travel freely throughout our country while allowing illegal aliens to pour across the southern border unmolested would be a ridiculous, but very damaging farce.”

DeSantis said any travel restrictions would be a political attack against Floridians.

Early in the pandemic, DeSantis was criticized after he issued an executive order mandating that anyone arriving on a flight from New York City and the surrounding area submit to self-quarantine for two weeks as he tried to avoid issuing a statewide shutdown similar to other states.

White House spokeswoman White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki addressed the reports during a Thursday press conference.

“I have seen those reports. We are always considering what steps are necessary to keep the American people safe, but we are not currently in the process of...no decisions have been made around additional public health measures that would delay or would change I should say, domestic travel considerations,” Psaki said.

Psaki said the southern border is “not open.”

“The majority of people who come to the border are turned away, and we are enforcing our laws at the border, but we are also doing it, are attempting to do it in a humane way. And so, this is not again the time to come,” she added.

The Associated Press reported Wednesday that there are 343 known cases of the United Kingdom variant in the Sunshine State — more than twice what has been detected in California, a much larger state. Florida health officials have said the high number is also an indication of the state’s more robust testing program for the new variants.

Scientists worry variants, including those from South Africa and Brazil, can resist existing vaccines, which has led to a review of potential travel restrictions within the United States, one federal official told the Miami Herald.

The variants seem to spread more easily and research is underway to see if they cause more serious disease.

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida said if the Biden administration did decide to impose travel restrictions it would be hypocritical.

“Instituting a travel ban, or any restriction of movement between the states, would be an outrageous, authoritarian move that has no basis in law or science,” Rubio wrote in a letter to President Joe Biden. “Instead, it would only serve to inflict severe and devastating economic pain on an already damaged economy.”

Two federal government officials told the Herald that no policy announcements are coming anytime soon and that any decisions about new health measures would be made with state and local governments.

DeSantis, who has pushed to keep schools and businesses open during the pandemic, made clear he does not want to impose any new restrictions on Florida.

“Going forward, we will not back down,” he said. “And if anyone tries to harm Floridians or target us, we will respond very swiftly.”


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