WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden on Tuesday criticized the Republican governors of Florida and Texas for hindering public health measures to control a surging strain of the coronavirus, asking them “to get out of the way” if they are not willing to help.
“What are we doing? COVID-19 is a national challenge,” he said in prepared remarks on the delta variant of the virus that he delivered from the East Room of the White House. “If some governors aren’t willing to do the right thing to beat this pandemic, then they should allow businesses and universities who want to do the right thing to be able to do it. I say to these governors: ‘Please help. But if you are not going to help, at least get out of the way of the people who are trying to do the right thing.’”
Biden had pointed out that fully a third of all new cases are now coming from just those two states. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis have vocally opposed vaccination or mask-wearing mandates to control the new surge in cases.
DeSantis has threatened to pull funding from school districts that require students to wear masks, for example, and previously sued the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention over vaccine requirements for cruise ship passengers.
Asked during a question-and-answer session with reporters why he would not call DeSantis directly to share his message, Biden laughed and said that it was not necessary.
“He knows the message. He knows the message,” he said on his way out of the room.
“We had a whole discussion when I was down there,” he added, referring to his meeting with DeSantis in South Florida during Biden’s visit there last month following the collapse of a beachfront condominium.
Both Abbott and DeSantis are believed to be mulling campaigns for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024, and the party’s voting base includes a sizable percentage who oppose the coronavirus vaccine or continue to believe that the disease is a “hoax,” as former president Donald Trump once called it.
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