The Biden administration allegedly floated placing travel restrictions on Florida as new, more contagious Coronavirus variant began spreading rapidly.
One unnamed federal official familiar with the issue told the Miami Herald that the administration fears a resurgence of cases if highly contagious variants from the UK, Brazil, and South Africa are allowed to take root. The continued spread of new mutations, despite a drop in total case numbers, “have lent urgency to a review of potential travel restrictions within the United States, one federal official said.”
Based on serological surveys, “Florida leads the nation with the most cases of the infectious U.K. COVID-19 variant, known as B.1.1.7.,” Axios reported. The CDC’s limited sampling found 343 cases of the UK variant in the Sunshine State. California comes in second with 156 confirmed cases. Over a third of all cases of this variant are found in Florida.
Restrictions, the official said, would target any state with a large share of overly infectious variants, not just Florida. “There are active conversations about what could help mitigate spread here, but we have to follow the data and what’s going to work. We did this with South Africa, we did this with Brazil, because we got clear guidance,” one White House official told the Herald.
“But we’re having conversations about anything that would help mitigate spread,” the official added, referring to potential restriction on Americans traveling to and from Florida.
The official clarified there are no imminent plans to announce a new intrastate travel restriction and the Biden administration is working with state and local governments on further mitigation tactics relating to ‘stay at home’ orders, but reaffirmed “all options are on the table.”
Governor Ron DeSantis, whose state is performing better than average when measuring a per capita deaths from COVID-19, called talks to limit travel by Americans an “attack” on Florida. “Any attempt to restrict or lock down Florida by the federal government would be an attack on our state, done purely for political purposes. If anyone tries to harm Floridians or target us, we will respond very swiftly.”
Senator Marco Rubio [R-FL] shared DeSantis’ sentiment calling the move “unreal” and clearly “unconstitutional.” In a letter to President Joe Biden, Rubio said a Florida travel restriction “would be an outrageous, authoritarian move that has no basis in law or science. Instead, it would only serve to inflict severe and devastating economic pain on an already damaged economy.”
Florida has famously been the target of media ire for their handling of the Coronavirus, notably because of their lax approach to state-mandated lockdowns and draconian mask requirements as seen in states like New York. Florida experienced 1,335 deaths per million residents, ranking 27th among all 50 states, while Cuomo’s New York ranks 2nd with 2,362 deaths per million residents. Both cases and deaths in Florida are on a decline.
COVID related hospitalizations are at their lowest level since late November. Daily deaths are approaching six-week lows.