Florida lawmakers block COVID vaccine, test mandates amid rising cases

November 18, 2021
Vials labeled as smallpox found in Philadelphia facility


With Republicans touting their defense of personal freedom and Democrats condemning the special session called by Gov. Ron DeSantis as a political stunt, Florida lawmakers approved measures Wednesday aimed at blocking any kind of vaccine or test mandates.

The outcome of the three-day session was never in doubt. 

The Republican-controlled state legislature finished work Wednesday night on a package of bills that both defy the Biden administration’s vaccine-or-test requirements for larger businesses and stop local governments from enacting such standards.

DeSantis called lawmakers back to the Capitol primarily to fight the White House in what Democrats condemned as a political play to enhance the governor’s national image and affirm his support among Floridians who refuse vaccinations.

“What are we doing?” asked Rep. Kelly Skidmore, D-Boca Raton. “We are agreeing with a loud minority that vaccines are bad,” adding: “We are devolving into making sure we are taking care of our political health, not our public health.”

Republicans saw the action differently.

“Today we’re doing something to protect people’s rights,” said Rep. Cord Byrd, R-Neptune Beach. “We are a legislature and governor who believe in individual rights, including liberty. It’s not a charade. It’s not a stunt.”

— John Kennedy, Sarasota Herald-Tribune

Also in the news:

►A global study has shown that the single most effective public health measure at tackling and preventing COVID-19 is mask-wearing, which reduces incidence by 53%. 

► New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said Wednesday that she believes being fully vaccinated includes boosters, eschewing federal guidance which currently defines it as people with two doses of Moderna or Pfizer or one does of Johnson & Johnson. 

►The Department of Defense will send medical teams to two major Minnesota hospitals to relieve doctors and nurses who are swamped by a growing wave of COVID-19 patients, Gov. Tim Walz announced Wednesday.

📈Today’s numbers: The U.S. has recorded more than 47 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 767,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Global totals: More than 254 million cases and 5 million deaths. More than 195 million Americans — 58% of the population — are fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.

📘What we’re reading: The pandemic has spurred many workers to reevaluate their lives and the role work plays in them, leading some to set fresh boundaries, find new jobs or maintain the side hustles that got them through the shutdowns and layoffs. Some workers shared their stories with USA TODAY.

Keep refreshing this page for the latest news. Want more? Sign up for USA TODAY’s Coronavirus Watch newsletter to receive updates directly to your inbox, and join our Facebook group.

Nearly 100 young Maryland students given diluted COVID vaccine dose

Nearly 100 Maryland elementary school students received an incorrect dose of the coronavirus vaccine at a clinic last week, health officials announced Monday.

Officials were notifying the parents of 98 students at South Lake Elementary School by telephone that doses of vaccine administered at a clinic at the Montgomery Village school on Nov. 10 were diluted more than recommended, the Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services said in a news release.

Students can get additional doses at a clinic Wednesday.

A staffer realized their mistake and notified officials, the department said. State officials and Pfizer recommended an additional dose for students as soon as possible. Acting county Health Officer Dr. James Bridgers said staff already received more training on children’s doses.

Over the weekend, a health clinic in the San Francisco Bay Area city of Antioch gave 14 children under age 12 the wrong dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, raising a furor among parents.

—The Associated Press


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