On January 17th, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced the Prescribe Freedom proposal, which would make protections from COVID-19 mandates permanent and create protections for medical professionals who voice their religious views.
“When the world lost its mind, Florida was a refuge of sanity, serving strongly as freedom’s linchpin,” DeSantis said. “These measures will ensure Florida remains this way and will provide landmark protections for free speech for medical practitioners.”
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This announcement comes shortly after an infectious disease expert in the state expressed concerns about this year’s triple respiratory virus season, the importance of getting tested for COVID-19, and staying home when sick.
The governor’s office describes the Prescribe Freedom proposal as a “strong pro-freedom, anti-mandate action,” according to a released statement. The goal of the proposal is to protect Floridians from losing their jobs due to COVID-19 vaccine requirements and would protect parental rights when making healthcare decisions for their children.
The proposal includes permanently prohibiting COVID-19 vaccine passports in the state, COVID-19 vaccine and mask requirements in all state schools, COVID-19 masking requirements at businesses, and employers from hiring or firing individuals based on vaccine status. The proposal would also safeguard medical jobs and licenses for medical professionals who voice their opinions in the state, including protections from discrimination based on personal religious views.
“As a health sciences researcher and physician, I have personally witnessed accomplished scientists receive threats due to their unorthodox positions,” State Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo said. “All medical professionals should be encouraged to engage in scientific discourse without fearing for their livelihoods or their careers.”
In 2021, DeSantis signed legislation that allowed school districts to make mask wearing optional and prohibited employer COVID-19 vaccine mandates, among others.
While the toughest times of the COVID-19 pandemic are in the past, the World Health Organization (WHO) updated its COVID-19 mask guidelines on January 13th. The WHO recommends the use of masks in specific settings, such as crowded, enclosed, or poorly ventilated areas.
Individuals should continue to wear masks if they’ve had a recent exposure to COVID-19, when they suspect they have COVID-19, and when someone is at high risk of severe COVID-19, according to the WHO. Individual risks should also be assessed by considering epidemiological trends or rising hospitalization levels in the community and the levels of vaccination coverage and immunity in the community.
The Johns Hopkins University of Medicine tracks COVID-19 data for each state, including Florida. Since the onset of the pandemic in 2020, Florida has had a total of 7,443,954 confirmed cases and a total of 84,927 reported deaths. About 71% of Floridians have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Johns Hopkins defines full vaccination as receiving two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccines, or one dose of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine.
Florida’s estimated population in 2022 was 22,244,823, similar to that of New York’s, (19,677,151). While each state’s response to the pandemic differed, New York has had 6,689,884 confirmed cases and 76,179 deaths, with about 80% of people being fully vaccinated against COVID-19.