At a Tuesday press briefing, White House press secretary Jen Psaki publicly went after Texas Republican Governor Greg Abbott and Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis for their opposition to mandates to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Abbott has signed an executive order blocking the imposition of vaccine mandates by any “entity” in the state — a move he undertook not long after the Biden administration announced that employees at companies with 100 or more personnel would be required to be vaccinated or frequently tested. DeSantis expressed openness to a measure similar to Abbott’s.
Meanwhile, Psaki commented as follows:
‘Governor Abbott’s executive order banning mandates and, I would also note, the announcement by Governor DeSantis this morning essentially banning the implementation of mandates, fit a familiar pattern that we’ve seen of putting politics ahead of public health… Over 700,000 American lives have been lost due to COVID-19, including more than 56,000 in Florida and over 68,000 in Texas, and every leader should be focused on efforts to save lives and end the pandemic… Why would you be taking steps that prevent the saving of lives, that make it more difficult to save lives across the country or in any state?’
Abbott and DeSantis (alongside other Republicans) have worked to block the implementation of basic safety measures throughout the pandemic. Recently, for instance, they’ve fought the implementation of mask mandates in schools, to which the Education Department has replied by launching civil rights investigations into Florida, Texas, and other states on the basis of the possibility that the mask mandate bans violate the rights of certain medically vulnerable students. The students in question would be those who can not safely attend school under current circumstances without mask requirements. In Florida, DeSantis’s administration has withheld funds from local school boards in amounts equal to salaries of local officials who voted in favor of implementing mask mandates in defiance of the governor — and the Biden administration has stepped in with grant money for targeted districts.
The Biden administration has called out DeSantis and Abbott before. At one point, Biden himself said that he is “so disappointed that particularly some of the Republican governors have been so cavalier with the health of these kids, so cavalier with the health of their communities. We’re playing for real here. This isn’t a game.”