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Florida’s DeSantis, other GOP states plan to sue over COVID mandate

 

▶ Watch Video: New federal rule will require COVID vaccines or testing by January 4

The White House’s announcement on Thursday that many businesses will be required to enforce COVID vaccines or testing was met with immediate backlash from several Republican officials. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has joined several other state officials in announcing plans to sue the administration over the new order.

The emergency standard mandates private-sector businesses with at least 100 employees to either require their employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or undergo weekly testing. Roughly 84 million workers — making up about two-thirds of the private-sector force — are expected to be impacted by the rule, and employers have until January 4 to implement the policy. Those who defy the order could face fines up to $14,000 per employee, according to an administration official.

Jim Frederick, deputy assistant secretary of labor at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), said Thursday that the mandate is expected to “save thousands of lives and prevent more than 25,000 hospitalizations.”

But, in a message similar to that of other Republican officials, DeSantis said Thursday that the mandate is “unconstitutional” and that he plans to sue OSHA, the entity that is enforcing the rule.

“We started with 15 days to slow the spread and now it’s get jabbed or lose your job,” DeSantis said in a press release. “We’re supposed to be a government of laws, not a government of men. …There is no federal police power and the federal government cannot unilaterally impose medical policy under the guise of workplace regulation.”

Florida has banned counties from enforcing their employees to be vaccinated. It has also banned school districts from universally enforcing mask mandates among students, and officials have voted to withhold funds from districts that do not adhere to these rules.

DeSantis took issue with the agency’s use of the term “grave danger” in describing the necessity of the mandate.

“If this was such a ‘grave danger,’ why did it take 57 days from the announcement by President Biden to publish the rule and why won’t it take effect until January 4 — another 60 days?” the press release from DeSantis’ office says.

While the number of daily cases in the U.S. has been on a mostly downward trend since July, every state in the nation remains classified as having a “high” or “substantial” rate of community transmission, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And many communities continue to grapple with limited health care staff and resources to help those who are currently battling COVID-19.

Nearly 750,000 people have died in the U.S. since the beginning of the pandemic.

Republican officials from several other states have also announced plans to combat the mandate.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton tweeted on Thursday that he will announce his plans to sue  “once this illegal, unconstitutional regulation hits the Federal Register.”

Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt also announced plans to sue on Thursday, tweeting, “Missouri will not roll over, we will not back down – we will file suit imminently.”

This wave of backlash for federal vaccine mandates comes as the Biden administration continues to face another, over a federal order announced in September that requires employees of federal contractors to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Several Republican-led states, including Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Ohio and Texas, have filed lawsuits against the administration for that ruling as well.



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