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Florida Files Lawsuit to Block Biden’s Vaccine Requirements

The state has submitted a lawsuit in federal court against President Biden, federal agencies and NASA’s administrator in hopes of blocking the federal vaccine requirements that will take effect on Dec. 8.

(TNS) — Florida has filed a lawsuit in federal court to block the Biden administration from carrying out a measure to require vaccinations against COVID-19 for federal employees and contractors.

Gov. Ron DeSantis and Attorney General Ashley Moody came to Lakeland to make the announcement at a news conference Thursday morning. Moody said her office filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, seeking to enjoin the policy scheduled to take effect Dec. 8.

DeSantis held the event in the Florida Air Museum at Lakeland Linder International Airport, and he emphasized the effect the vaccine mandate would have on Florida's aerospace industry. The citizen speakers included a representative of ManWon't Fly, a group recently formed in Brevard County by employees of aerospace companies and their family members.

Thursday's announcement is the latest salvo in DeSantis' ongoing battle with the administration of President Joe Biden over federal vaccine requirements. The governor and other speakers repeatedly described the mandate for federal contractors as "heavy handed" and an overreach by the federal government.

DeSantis declared the vaccine requirement unconstitutional and predicted that a court will prevent it from going into effect.

Moody said Florida filed the suit against President Biden, federal agencies, including NASA, and the space agency's administrator, Bill Nelson.

"In June, Joe Biden made clear that mandating vaccines and I'm going to quote is not the role of federal government," Moody said. "It's true, it's not the role of federal government. They have absolutely no authority to require vaccines of the majority of the US population, none whatsoever."

DeSantis said Florida will seek a preliminary injunction that would block the federal rule from taking effect Dec. 8 as scheduled.

DeSantis also blasted a pending rule from the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration that would compel companies with 100 or more employees to require vaccinations or frequent COVID tests for workers. He said Biden is using "obscure rules" to impose policies without approval from Congress.

"We've made it very clear, as you now are in an era where there are these heavy-handed mandates that are being hung over people's heads that threaten to deprive them of the ability to earn a living, that in the state of Florida you have a right to earn a living and it should not be denied to you based on these shots," DeSantis said.

He later quipped: "It's, like, sometimes you've got to just, in the moment, look back and think, 'OK, we've gone from 15 days to slow the spread to three jabs to keep your job somehow.' Are you kidding me?"

DeSantis said the federal requirement would cost jobs in Florida and would worsen the supply-chain blockages that are disrupting business in the state and nationwide.

The governor stood in the cavernous space of the museum, flanked by displays of vintage airplanes. Behind him stood a row of Floridians whom the governor said would be negatively affected by the federal vaccine rules.

DeSantis called a few of them to speak, including Hy Hetherington, CEO of HLP Integration, a litigation support consulting and services company with an office in Lakeland. The company has a federal contract to manage health care claims for veterans.

Hetherington said he is worried that many of his employees will lose their jobs rather than consent to receiving COVID vaccinations when the federal rule takes effect.

"They are sitting with us and working with us because they care about serving their fellow veterans," Hetherington said. "And now we're putting them in a position where we can't tell them that you're going to still have a job doing that incredibly important work, post a certain period. That's a really scary place for them to be and a really scary place for their families."

Olivia Gregg, whose husband works at an aerospace company in Brevard County, spoke on behalf of the Mandates Won't Fly group. She said both her father and her husband are facing the potential loss of their jobs if they don't get vaccinated.

"This mandate has created a lot of uncertainty for our family and our future," Gregg said. "The possibility of my husband's job being gone in roughly five weeks is terrifying. His employers will be adding certain exemptions if you meet specific criteria, but we don't know if he'll be approved."

DeSantis also yielded the podium to John Freeland, a Palm Beach County resident who said he lost his job of 14 years as a fitness director because his employer would not offer a waiver from its vaccine requirement. Freeland said he has a health condition that makes him susceptible to seizures when he gets a fever, one of the common side effects of COVID vaccines.

"Even though I had this medical condition, which my employer knew about, I put it in writing," Freeland said. "And I explained to them the situation at hand. I gave them the paperwork from the fire rescue, from the hospital, so that there was no doubt that what was causing my seizures are the fevers. Unfortunately, my employer didn't see it the way I did."

It wasn't clear whether Freeland worked for a federal contractor or a company with its own vaccination requirements.

T.J. McCormick, who is visually impaired and has a state contract as a vendor in Tampa, said he has not yet been vaccinated because he is "waiting for more data to come out."

Robert Doyle, director of the state's Division of Blind Services, thanked DeSantis for fighting the federal requirement.

"As the governor said, these federal mandates to the contractor relationship is creating a system that is forcing our vendors to either make a choice between providing for their families or being able to keep their jobs, or taking a jab that may not meet their own personal needs, their health needs, their religious needs, or whatever it may be," Doyle said.

DeSantis also reiterated his plan to call for a special session of the Florida Legislature to pursue measures aimed at blocking federal vaccine requirements. He said he would announce the dates of the special session Thursday or Friday and vowed that it would happen in November, two months before the Legislature's regular session begins.

Asked why it's necessary to call lawmakers to Tallahassee so close to the regular session, DeSantis said the timing of the federal rule makes it an urgent matter. He did not go into specifics about what he hopes the Legislature will accomplish but said the focus will be "making sure people are treated well."

DeSantis has devoted considerable public energy in recent weeks to pushing back against federal tactics intended to increase COVID vaccination rates. During Thursday's news conference, he attacked "TV doctors" who he said have lied about the effects of masking and vaccinations.

The governor said science doesn't support the call for mandatory vaccines and said the shots do not provide "sterilizing immunity." He said the Biden administration is ignoring the protection gained through immunity after an infection with COVID-19. And he emphasized the occurrence of infections among vaccinated people, though medical experts say the vast majority of those who require hospitalization or die are not vaccinated.

DeSantis did not offer encouragement for Floridians to seek vaccinations, saying that it should be a personal decision for everyone.

All of Lakeland's city commissioners attended Thursday's event. They joined other audience members in applauding several times after statements from DeSantis and Moody.

(c)2021 The Ledger (Lakeland, Fla.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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