MIAMI — Ahead of the special legislative session beginning this afternoon, Nov. 15, Florida physicians and health professionals called on the Florida Legislature to reject Gov. Ron DeSantis’ anti-health proposals that could put Floridians at further risk from COVID-19. The physicians urged legislators instead to support robust efforts to promote widespread vaccinations and mask use — two evidence-based safety measures that can reduce COVID-19 spread.
“For more than a year, doctors, scientists and public health experts across Florida have repeatedly called on Gov. Ron DeSantis and policymakers to support more mask wearing and make every effort to vaccinate all eligible Floridians against COVID-19 — and unfortunately, he continues to push politics and his political ambitions at the expense of the health and safety of Florida families,” said Dr. Bernard Ashby, a Miami cardiologist and Florida Lead for the Committee to Protect Health Care. “As physicians, we are extremely concerned that Gov. DeSantis is using this week’s special legislative session as a political sideshow to promote an anti-health and politically driven agenda that will increase the risk of Floridians getting COVID-19, being hospitalized and even dying. The best way to reopen businesses and schools safely, as science and evidence show again and again, is to get everyone to wear a mask indoors, and get people vaccinated with the safe, effective shot.”
DeSantis called the special session so Florida legislators would vote on anti-health proposals that would effectively block vaccination and mask-wearing efforts. They include prohibiting local communities from requiring vaccinations. They also prevent schools from requiring masks and vaccinations by exposing them to legal action.
“The real emergency in Florida right now is Gov. Ron DeSantis’ failure to implement robust, evidence-based safety measures to rein in COVID-19 and protect people, leading to unnecessary and avoidable suffering and death,” said Dr. Fred Southwick, an infectious disease specialist in Gainesville and Committee to Protect Health Care member. “Gov. DeSantis and Republican politicians in Tallahassee are engaging in political theater for their partisan base when they should be working with doctors and health professionals to save lives. We ask our legislators and Gov. DeSantis to stop this politically-motivated charade of a special session and do their duty to protect the health, safety and security of Florida families. We ask you to stop working against us and work with us to prevent suffering and to save lives.”
The physicians urged legislators to reject efforts to discourage schools and businesses from requiring masks, a call physicians across Florida have made repeatedly. The physicians also blasted DeSantis’ prohibition against vaccine requirements, saying vaccines protect individuals from getting COVID-19 or from becoming seriously ill or dying of COVID-19, while preventing individuals from spreading the COVID-19 virus to others.
“Gov. Ron DeSantis’ special legislative session won’t help schools and businesses remain open safely and, in fact, will likely do the opposite, exposing more children and Floridians to sickness and suffering,” said Dr. Jennifer Cowart, an internist in Jacksonville and Committee to Protect Health Care member. “Our concern, as doctors and health professionals who have cared for Floridians throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, is that Gov. DeSantis will continue to push dangerous policies that will needlessly expose Floridians to more infections and outbreaks while completely undermining safety strategies that we know can keep all of us safer: more masks and more vaccinations. Gov. DeSantis’ special session will only give more unnecessary oxygen to disinformation and public confusion about the best way to stay safe against COVID-19. When he should be unequivocally telling every Floridian to wear a mask and get vaccinated against COVID-19, instead Gov. DeSantis is hosting a political circus meant to distract people and the news media.”
Data shows vaccine requirements can increase the rate of people protected against COVID-19 and some organizations and businesses are reporting significant jumps. When Tyson Foods announced its mandate on Aug. 3, it said that less than half of its nearly 140,000 employees were vaccinated. When the deadline for the mandate came at the end of October, the food processing company said 96 percent of its staff was vaccinated. In New York City, the city’s vaccination requirement helped boost the Department of Sanitation’s rate from only 67 percent to 86 percent, a whopping 19-point jump in less than a week, between Oct. 29 and Nov. 4. Nationally, vaccination rates against COVID-19 have risen by more than 20 points after multiple institutions adopted vaccine requirements.
About the Committee to Protect Health Care
The Committee to Protect Health Care, formerly known as the Committee to Protect Medicare, is a national mobilization of doctors, health care professionals, and advocates who are building a pro-patient health care majority in Congress and in states so that we can live in an America where everyone has the health care they need to thrive. To learn more: www.committeetoprotect.org