The Biden administration is reportedly considering domestic travel restrictions in Florida, which has prompted Republicans to slam the potential domestic travel ban.
Officials with the Biden administration are considering imposing domestic travel restrictions, including on Florida, the Miami Herald reported Wednesday.
"Outbreaks of the new variants — including a highly contagious one first identified in the United Kingdom, as well as others from South Africa and Brazil that scientists worry can evade existing vaccines — have lent urgency to a review of potential travel restrictions within the United States," a federal official told the Miami Herald.
"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," a White House official said.
The potential travel restrictions could reportedly target multiple states, including Florida and California.
In the United States, Florida has the most cases of the B.1.1.7 variant of the COVID-19 virus, mostly known as the '"U.K. variant." Florida has 343 cases of the U.K. variant, followed by California with 156 cases, and 59 cases in New York, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. With 34 states reporting, there are 932 total cases of the B.1.1.7 variant as of Tuesday.
Two federal government officials stressed that "no policy announcements are imminent," "all options are on the table," and any travel restrictions "would be taken in partnership with state and local governments."
Tori Emerson Barnes, executive vice president of public affairs and policy at the U.S. Travel Association, has been communicating with Biden administration officials on how to deal with the new variants.
"The variants are certainly of concern obviously to the CDC, and I think that the uncertainty around the variants has put other proposals on the table," Barnes said.
Earlier this week, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said the administration is considering a requirement that passengers must provide a negative COVID-19 test before they can travel on domestic flights.
Overall in Florida, cases of coronavirus cases were down 21.3% last week compared to the previous week.
"Current COVID-19 hospitalizations have been declining from a high of more than 7,600 in January," the Orlando Sentinel reported.
The U.K. variant now accounts for up to 15% of new cases in Florida, up from approximately 1% at the beginning of January.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis called the possible travel restrictions "absurd" and a "political attack against the people of Florida."
"I think it's an absurd report that they would be doing that, I think it would be unconstitutional, it would be unwise and it would be unjust," DeSantis said at a news conference Thursday morning. "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 you think about it, restricting the right of Americans to travel freely throughout our country while allowing illegal aliens to pour across the southern border unmolested would be a ridiculous but very damaging farce," the Republican governor said. "So we will oppose it 100%. It would not be based in science, it would purely be a political attack against the people of Florida."
DeSantis is referring to President Joe Biden rescinding former President Donald Trump's national emergency proclamation to secure the U.S. southern border.
Biden wrote a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Thursday stating, "I have also announced that it shall be the policy of my administration that no more American taxpayer dollars be diverted to construct a border wall, and that I am directing a careful review of all resources appropriated or redirected to that end."
DeSantis, who ripped the media for a perceived double standard in coronavirus coverage this week, noted that since December, Florida is 28th in the U.S. for COVID-19 cases per capita, 30th in coronavirus hospitalizations, and 42nd in COVID-19 deaths per capita, according to WTVJ.
"It would purely be a political attack against the people of #Florida," @GovRonDeSantis responds to report on possi… https://t.co/A31MeSGy66— Justin Schecker (@Justin Schecker)1613060126.0
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) wrote a letter to President Biden where he blasted the potential travel restrictions in Florida as "an outrageous, authoritarian move that has no basis in law or science."
"Instituting a travel ban, or any restriction of movement between the states, 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," Rubio said in a statement.
"If you are concerned about the coronavirus spread in Florida, I urge you to fast track additional vaccines to the state instead of attempting to cripple our economy," the Republican senator said. "Instead of dictating where Americans can, or cannot travel, your administration should instead focus on increasing supply and availability of vaccines, especially to Florida, the third most populous state and a winter retreat."
Rubio labeled the potential travel restrictions as "reckless and economically harmful" to the "state and country as a whole."
On Twitter, Rubio called out President Biden for his hypocrisy on travel bans.
"Biden opposed a #Covid travel ban on #China But is considering a travel ban on #Florida? Unreal," he tweeted.
"Day after Trump issued a #Covid travel ban on #China Joe Biden accused him of 'hysteria, xenophobia, and fear mongering,'" Rubio wrote on Thursday morning. "The following month he said banning travel from any part of the world will not stop coronavirus. But now he is considering restrictions on #Florida travel."
Biden opposed a #Covid travel ban on #China But is considering a travel ban on #Florida? Unreal https://t.co/KA7y0WOmk7— Marco Rubio (@Marco Rubio)1612998341.0
Day after Trump issued a #Covid travel ban on #China Joe Biden accused him of “hysteria, xenophobia, and fear monge… https://t.co/C1B4F2UFgp— Marco Rubio (@Marco Rubio)1613045380.0
Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) also slammed the possible travel restrictions.
"This is nothing short of political payback and tyranny towards a state with exceptional leadership and a common-sense, scientific approach to COVID-19," Biggs wrote on Twitter. "The Biden administration must stop these considerations."
This is nothing short of political payback and tyranny towards a state with exceptional leadership and a common-sen… https://t.co/Cl0dIzS0bn— Rep Andy Biggs (@Rep Andy Biggs)1612992164.0