In addition to the current anxiety surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, politicians and citizens alike have a new predicament to fear: the development of new variants of COVID-19 throughout the world. Specifically, the UK variant has spread rapidly in Florida, making it the leading state in the occupation of the new variant.
Florida is estimated to have the highest percentage of UK variant COVID-19 cases with 30 percent. The question remains whether the speed of the vaccines will outpace the spread of these new variants.
In the meantime, there have been rumors that the Biden administration is currently investigating the possibility of domestic travel restrictions, specifically on Florida.
However, during his remarks, DeSantis failed to address the emerging role of the new UK variant that would cause the supposed travel restrictions. Instead, he listed many achievements and statistics about Florida’s perseverance and recovery from the virus’s effects, including that the winter peak of COVID-19 has been significantly lower than the peak in the summer.
Rubio’s remarks focused more on attacking the Biden administration’s COVID-19 response. He expressed that Biden’s domestic travel restrictions could not only be “reckless” but “economically harmful” to Florida and its businesses. With Florida’s $67 billion tourism industry hit hard from the pandemic, Rubio worries that Biden’s imposition of travel restrictions will push the state into further economic disarray.
Currently, Florida is in its winter “retreat” season where “snowbirds” come to Florida to spend the winter in a warmer climate. Any restrictions could significantly impact this practice as well as the other forms of tourism.
Rubio also stressed that the Biden administration should instead focus its efforts on “increasing supply and availability of vaccines.” Due to Florida’s significantly high population of elderly individuals, the vaccination process has been a pressing issue within the state in order to help protect its older population who are categorized as “high risk.”
However, the Biden administration has successfully improved distribution of the vaccine in comparison to the Trump administration.
Much to DeSantis’s and Rubio’s probable relief, the Biden administration has openly denied the reports of these restrictions. However, a White House Spokesperson has stated that the administration is “continuing to discuss” other travel recommendations.
Although this particular restriction may not make headway, the potential considerations of the White House into these restrictions provide a stark contrast to the COVID-19 policies of the Trump administration. Biden has taken far more aggressive actions on the pandemic that are within his current jurisdiction. This has included a mask mandate on federal property and a requirement to produce a negative COVID-19 test result for international travel.
Even though the supposed domestic travel restrictions may only have been rumors, we can expect Florida politicians to pay close attention to the Biden administration’s directions and initiatives regarding COVID-19 measures.
Featured image: Joe Biden in 2019. Unmodified image by Gage Skidmore used under a Creative Commons license. (https://bit.ly/38lWQRg)
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