Charlie Crist calls on DeSantis to require Florida state employees to be vaccinated

Charlie Crist calls on DeSantis to require Florida state employees to be vaccinated
© Greg Nash

Rep. Charlie CristCharles (Charlie) Joseph CristGovernors brace for 2022 after year in pandemic spotlight Trump announces endorsement in GOP race to replace Crist in Florida GOP leader taking proxy voting fight to Supreme Court MORE (D-Fla.), a former Florida governor who’s running to lead the state once again, is calling on Gov. Ron DeSantisRon DeSantisPoll: Trump dominates 2024 Republican primary field Republican politicians: Let OSHA do its job Ben & Jerry's unveils new flavor in support of Cori Bush's public safety reform bill MORE (R) to require state employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 as the more-contagious delta variant of the virus tears its way through the state.

“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 in a statement. “If Disney, Walmart, and our military can do it, our state government can as well.” 

Florida has emerged as the new epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic in the United States in recent weeks as vaccination rates have leveled off and the delta variant has taken hold as the dominant strain of COVID-19. The state now accounts for roughly 1 in 5 new cases nationally.

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On Monday, the Florida Hospital Association reported 10,389 hospitalizations due to COVID-19, shattering the previous statewide record set in July 2020. About 95 percent of those hospitalized are unvaccinated. 

“Let’s be clear, while anyone can spread the virus, vaccines work,” Crist said. “This latest phase of the crisis is a pandemic of the unvaccinated. The way to stamp out the virus, and protect our public health, economy and our jobs, is to get everyone vaccinated.”

“The fact of the matter is that there is no reason for Florida to once again be in this position,” he added. “It’s time to stop playing games and get serious about ending this pandemic once and for all.”

Crist’s call for state employees to receive one of the three COVID-19 vaccines or face regular testing and masking requirements comes days after President BidenJoe BidenHouse clears bill to provide veterans with cost-of-living adjustment On The Money — Dems dare GOP to vote for shutdown, default To reduce poverty, stop burdening the poor: What Joe Manchin gets wrong about the child tax credit MORE imposed sweeping new guidelines for federal workers, requiring them to be vaccinated against the virus or comply with new rules on mandatory masking, weekly testing and distancing.

DeSantis, a rising star in the GOP who received accolades from conservatives last year for his relatively lax approach to coronavirus-related restrictions, has held firm in his opposition to new pandemic requirements. 

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He has vowed to oppose efforts by county and local governments to implement their own restrictions. Just last week, he signed an executive order making face masks optional in schools and putting the decision in the hands of parents.

Florida state Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, the lone statewide elected Democrat and Crist’s main rival for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, has pleaded for Floridians to get vaccinated, but has stopped short of calling for state-level mandates. On Monday, she said she opposed a statewide mask requirement, but argued that county and municipal governments should be allowed to make such decisions for themselves.

“Every county needs to make their own decisions,” Fried said. “No statewide mask mandate, but I certainly would want every school board to have the power to make the right decisions for their own communities.”