Any types of travel restrictions could derail Florida’s economy, which relies heavily on tourists. The initial wave of lockdowns last spring sent the state’s tax collections into a spiral. Florida would have been hit with a severe budget deficit if not for the nearly $5 billion in coronavirus relief it received from Congress.
DeSantis’ comments mark an escalation in the tensions between the Biden administration and Florida. DeSantis was a top ally of former President Donald Trump, who now lives in Florida, and used that relationship to bring federal aid and to gain support for some of the governor’s key initiatives during his first two years in office.
Last month, DeSantis took swipes at some of the initial vaccine distribution plans discussed by the White House and pushed for more doses — which resulted in White House press secretary Jen Psaki faulting Florida for not using its full allotment of vaccines. DeSantis responded by pointing out that some of the doses were being saved to ensure there was enough to provide a second shot.
But DeSantis issuing a defiant response to the idea is a turnabout from last year when he enacted restrictions on visitors coming to Florida from other states such as New York, New Jersey and Louisiana. At the start of the pandemic, the governor required that anyone coming to Florida from several coronavirus hot spots to self-quarantine for 14 days. At one point, DeSantis even had the Florida Highway Patrol set up checkpoints on Interstate 10, the main highway connecting Florida to Louisiana.
DeSantis, who is already raising money for his 2022 reelection campaign, is viewed as a potential 2024 candidate for president, especially if Trump forgoes another run. DeSantis has earned praise from conservative media outlets and other Republicans for his refusal to enact strict lockdowns and his constant sparring with the media.
Tyler Pager contributed to this report.