"When the world lost its mind, Florida was a refuge of sanity, serving strongly as freedom's linchpin," DeSantis said in a statement. "These measures will ensure Florida remains this way and will provide landmark protections for free speech for medical practitioners."
Characterized as a "strong pro-freedom, anti-mandate action," the so-called "Prescribe Freedom" action would "permanently protect Floridians from losing their jobs due to COVID-19 vaccine mandates, protects parents' rights, and institutes additional protections that prevent discrimination based on COVID-19 vaccine status."
Additionally, the action would again prohibit schools from imposing vaccine and mask requirements and preclude employers from hiring on the basis of mRNA vaccinations.
In November 2021, DeSantis ratified similar legislation prohibiting private employer, school, and state government vaccine mandates, as well as the quarantine of healthy students.
Some of these previous anti-mandate provisions are set to expire in June, hence the perceived need for more lasting measures.
Extra to maintaining these bans on coercive policies, the new legislation would protect medical professionals' freedom of speech; protect the "right to disagree with the preferred narrative of the medical community"; and protect the religious views of medical professionals.
Florida Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo noted that he has "personally witnessed accomplished scientists receive threats due to their unorthodox positions.
Ladapo added that "many of these positions have proven to be correct, as we’ve all seen over the past few years. All medical professionals should be encouraged to engage in scientific discourse without fearing for their livelihoods or their careers."
The Miami Herald reported that as part of this "pro-freedom" push, DeSantis plans to revive two measures that fizzled out in 2022, namely Senate Bill 1184 and House Bill 687. Accordingly, doctors cannot be sanctioned by regulatory boards for medical views unless their speech can be proven to have "led to the direct physical harm" of one of their recent patients.
Despite having secured the support of nearly 60% of voters, there are holdouts in the medical establishment and business community and those who would prefer to keep COVID emergency measures on hand despite President Joe Biden's unequivocal declaration last year that the pandemic was over.
The Herald noted that hundreds of big companies — including Disney, Starbucks, Walmart, Delta, and Live Nation — adopted vaccine mandates, firing those who refused to surrender their bodily autonomy.
Florida Democrats appear similarly aggrieved over this loss of coercive power.
State Rep. Fentrice Driskell (D) called DeSantis and his administration "the No. 1 peddler of misinformation from the anti-vax establishment."
She added the governor's pro-freedom stance "is a fake ideology with real consequences."
DeSantis said on Tuesday, "The Free State of Florida did not happen by accident. ... It required us over these last few years to stand against major institutions in our society — the bureaucracy, the medical establishment, legacy media and even the president of the United States — who together were working to impose a bio medical security state on society."
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