President Biden on Tuesday criticized the Republican governors of Texas and Florida for making ‘bad health policy,’ and getting in the way of efforts to save lives as he pointed out that the two states were responsible for a third of all coronavirus cases in the U.S.
His pointed remarks came as he delivered an update on efforts to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic and urged Americans to protect themselves from a surge in cases.
He backed city and private mandates that require people to be vaccinated to take part in some daily activities.
And he reserved special criticism for the state officials who were getting in the way of letting ‘people do the right thing’ such as banning mask mandates in schools or elsewhere.
‘The escalation of cases is particularly concentrated in states with low vaccination rates,’ he said.
‘Just two states, Florida and Texas, account for one third of all new COVID-19 cases in the entire country. Just two states.
‘Look, we need leadership from everyone.’
President Biden took aim at the Republican governors of Texas and Florida as he delivered an update on his administration’s COVID-19 response, saying they were making ‘bad health policy’ that meant their states were responsible for a third of all coronavirus cases in the U.S.
‘I believe the results of their decisions are not good for their constituents,’ said Biden when he was asked whether the governors of Texas and Florida were harming people in their states
July and August’s COVID spike has been attributed to the highly transmissible Delta variant spreading among unvaccinated Americans
The should free people to do the right thing, such as allowing teachers to ask students to wear masks, he continued.
‘I say to these governors, please help,’ he said.
‘But if you’re not going to help at least get out of the way of the people are trying to do the right thing. Use your power to save lives.’
On Monday, the White House announced that it had finally reached its target of delivering at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine to 70 percent of the population.
However, the milestone was reached a month late, reflecting hesitancy among young people in particular.
Combined with the highly infectious Delta variant, the result has been a surge in cases around the country.
That rise in infections prompted health officials last week to recommend that even people who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 return to wearing masks in some public indoor settings.
But as some states and cities scrambled to reimpose safety measured abandoned when officials believed the pandemic was over, Texas and Florida were among those that moved to limit mandates.
In an executive order signed on Thursday, Gov. Greg Abbott, the Republican governor of the Texas, banned state agencies from mandating vaccinations. It also reinforced a previous order preventing officials from introducing mask mandates.
A day later, Gov Ron DeSantis of Florida issued an executive order rejecting mask mandates in schools.
At the weekend it emerged that Florida had set a new state record for hospitalizations.
It reported 10,207 people were in hospital with confirmed COVID-19 cases, surpassing the 10,170 recorded in July last year, before vaccinations had begun.
At the end of his formal remarks, Biden was asked by journalists at the White House whether the governors of Florida and Texas were harming their voters.
‘I believe the results of their decisions are not good for their constituents,’ said Biden.
‘And it’s clear to me and to most of the medical experts that the decisions being made – like not allowing mask mandates in school and the like – are bad health policy.’
The number of people who said the US is moving in a favorable direction with the pandemic has also fallen as cases surged over July
The latest numbers also indicate more Americans are concerned about the pandemic than any other issue facing the country
As he left the East Room of the White House he was asked whether he would call Gov. Ron DeSantis personally
‘And say happy birthday or what?’ joked Biden.
The two appeared to have struck a cordial tone when the president visited the site of the Surfside condo collapse in Florida last month.
But when Biden was further pressed on whether he would call the governor to deliver the same message he had just outlined, Biden suggested the relationship went only so far.
‘He knows the message,’ he replied. ‘He knows the message.’
Biden has seen his own approval ratings drop by 10 percent as his promised ‘summer of freedom’ has been replaced with fresh mask mandates and an increase in COVID-19 cases.
DeSantis had been riding high on his handling of the pandemic. The worst forecasts failed to materialize as he reopened the state early from lockdowns last year.
But that has changed in the past month and last week the state announced 409 deaths.
DeSantis has resisted mandatory masking and vaccine requirements, and along with the state legislature, has limited local officials’ ability to impose restrictions meant to stop the spread of COVID-19.
For his part, the governor has blamed the surge on hot weather, forcing more Floridians indoors were air conditioning can spread the virus.