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Gov. DeSantis says Florida will continue to block COVID-19 lockdowns and mandates

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — (AP) — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Thursday criticized recent efforts across the U.S. to tamp down a recent jump in COVID-19 cases through temporary restrictions or masking, and his state surgeon general warned against getting the latest COVID-19 vaccine, which is expected to be available this month.

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The criticism from DeSantis at news conference in Jacksonville, Florida, arrived the same day that his campaign for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination sent out an email to supporters vowing to “fight back against every bogus attempt the Left makes to expand government control” when it comes to COVID-19 precautions.

At the Jacksonville news conference in an Irish pub, DeSantis and Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo promised Florida won’t be joining states, cities or school districts across the U.S. in temporarily closing schools or mandating mask-wearing because of the recent uptick in COVID-19 cases.

Read: To mask or not to mask? Biden goes both ways after first lady tests positive for COVID-19

“People are lurching toward this insanity again,” DeSantis said. “As we see these things being orchestrated ... there needs to be pushback.”

Lapado said there were no arguments for getting the latest vaccine. “There are a lot of red flags,” he said.

Ladapo’s previous warnings against COVID-19 vaccines merited a public letter from federal health agencies saying his claims were harmful to the public.

Read: CDC, WHO tracking a new ‘highly-mutated’ strain of COVID-19 variant

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sent the letter in March to Ladapo, a DeSantis appointee who has attracted national scrutiny over his close alignment with the governor in opposing COVID-19 vaccine mandates and other health policies embraced by the federal government.

Ladapo last year released guidance recommending against COVID-19 vaccinations for healthy children, contradicting federal public health leaders whose advice says all children should get the shots.

Read: As new COVID-19 variant takes hold, should you get a booster?

“It is the job of public health officials around the country to protect the lives of the populations they serve, particularly the vulnerable. Fueling vaccine hesitancy undermines this effort,” said the letter signed by FDA Commissioner Robert Califf and then-CDC Director Rochelle Walensky.

DeSantis’ news conference in Jacksonville came almost two weeks after three Black people were fatally shot by a 21-year-old white supremacist who authorities say left behind ramblings that read like “the diary of a madman.” At a vigil the day after the shootings, DeSantis was booed by the crowd during his speech.

This year, DeSantis signed a bill allowing people to carry guns without getting a state permit. He has antagonized civil rights leaders by deriding “wokeness.”

Read: President Joe Biden says he will request more funding for a new coronavirus vaccine

During a question-and-answer period at Thursday’s news conference, an unidentified man suggested the governor’s policies contributed to the shootings. The governor responded angrily, saying he shouldn’t be blamed for the actions of “some madman.”

“I’m not going to allow you to accuse me of committing criminal activity,” DeSantis said. “I’m not going to take that! I’m not going to take that!”

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