DeSantis calls business vaccine mandate a 'stab in the back,' moves to counter orders

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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said he felt betrayed by federal vaccination mandates for businesses during a Thursday press conference and vowed to call legislators back to counter the orders.

"We provided the strongest COVID liability protection probably anywhere in the country very early on," DeSantis said, explaining measures the state took to prevent businesses from being held liable if an employee contracted the coronavirus while on the job. 

"I must say that having done that, to now see some of those same businesses who were complaining about potential liability to turn around and want to fire employees over these injections — I kind of feel like they’re stabbing us in the back after we were standing up for them," he added. 

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The governor said he will call a special session to require the GOP-controlled state legislature to return to the capital and pass measures to counter business-enforced vaccine mandates. 

"At the end of the day, you shouldn’t be discriminated against based on your health decisions," he said. "We want to provide protection for people, we want to make it clear that, in Florida, your right to earn a living is not contingent upon whatever choices you're making in terms of these injections."

The governor outlined policy options for how Florida lawmakers can thwart mandates, like added protections for terminated employees, holding businesses liable for adverse vaccine reactions and removing employer protections.

DeSantis did not say when the special session will convene, but the governor’s move is just the latest in his battle with the Biden administration to counter COVID protective measures, like mask mandates in schools. 

President Biden last month signed an executive order requiring most federal employees to be vaccinated by Nov. 22, while government contractors will have until Dec. 8 to get the shot in their arms.

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In addition, Biden signed an order that would require all businesses with 100 employees or more to enforce vaccine mandates. No official guidelines on how private businesses will enforce such an order have been released by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

Some companies, including United Airlines, have already started enforcing a vaccine mandate and those who refused to get vaccinated have begun to be terminated.

Reports earlier this month showed that the White House met with officials from Delta, American Airlines and Southwest to encourage them to enforce similar mandates ahead of the release of OSHA guidelines.

DeSantis said Thursday that Biden’s vaccine mandates will harm Florida’s economy, particularly as it relates to transportation and tourism industries.

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 "We’re the number-one tourist destination in the United States," he said. "We need to have the airlines functioning. 

"Losing some of these people is not going to be good for the state of Florida," he said, gesturing to airline industry employees behind him. 

The U.S. has reported over 45 million cases of the coronavirus and more than 728,000 deaths according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

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