Decrying the current Governor’s inaction on stopping COVID-19, Democrat gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist is calling for all state employees to get vaccinated for the virus or submit to wearing a mask and weekly tests.
Stepping up to require employee vaccinations — which Crist calls a crucial step in stopping the virus — is also what Gov. Ron DeSantis’ office has called an invasion of privacy, according to the Tallahassee Democrat.
Florida has become an epicenter for new virus cases, as a highly transmissible variant of the virus has spread. Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reported the number of patients in the hospital with COVID-19 set another daily record, breaking those set before the vaccine became available.
“This latest phase of the crisis is a pandemic of the unvaccinated,” Crist said in a prepared statement. “The way to stamp out the virus, and protect our public health, economy and our jobs, is to get everyone vaccinated.”
Florida is currently No. 2 in the number of COVID-19 cases per capita, behind Louisiana, according to the New York Times COVID-19 tracker on Monday.
Crist’s call mirrors that of President Joe Biden for federal employees.
As of Monday, just 49% of Floridians are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, lagging behind the nation overall. Meanwhile, Florida’s positive cases are up 144%, hospitalizations are up 138%, and deaths are up 72% according to the New York Times.
Crist says Florida’s leaders need to do more.
“I’m calling on the Governor to immediately require that our state employees be vaccinated or if they choose not to, be regularly tested and wear a mask indoors,” Crist said. “If Disney, Walmart, and our military can do it, our state government can as well.”
Required employee vaccinations have been announced for employees in Leon and Orange counties, as the virus has surged again in Florida. And both counties are saying employees must get vaccinated or be fired. If those employees don’t provide proof of vaccination, keeping their job will require a doctor-certified medical reason for skipping it or evidence of a sincerely held religious belief.
DeSantis has so far resisted calls to mandate any individual action to contain the virus. He has sued cruise lines to stop them from requiring passengers to show proof of vaccination before sailing. Reports are that he has his legal team checking on whether counties can require their employees to get vaccinated.
Crist said there’s no reason for this crisis that has thrust Florida into the national spotlight, and not in a good way.
“It’s time to stop playing games and get serious about ending this pandemic once and for all,” Crist said.
Crist is facing major competition for his party’s nomination to face DeSantis in the General Election from state Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, also a Democrat. She is on a national blitz about the state of Florida’s coronavirus response, making hay of DeSantis‘ approach.