MIAMI, Fla. – U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) sent a letter to President Joe Biden, while at a speech in Port Charlotte, Fla., Gov. Ron DeSantis denounced reports the Biden Administration was in discussions about restricting travel to and from Florida over an urgency to prevent the spread of coronavirus variants surging in the state.
A report from McClatchy DC and in The Miami Herald on Wednesday stated that the White House may be considering domestic travel restrictions as new variants, including the more contagious variant first identified in the United Kingdom, continue to surge.
Turns out, however, that not one detail exists about any plan for the Biden Administration to impose any COVID-related travel ban. But the aforementioned news report was enough to draw quick backlash from the highest levels of Republican leadership.
DeSantis started off a news conference in Port Charlotte, Fla., by saying that a lockdown by the federal government would be an attack on the state done “purely for political purposes.”
Rubio, weighing in on Fox News, criticized the Biden Administration’s proposals, implying its inconsistent with their past statements on travel.
“He tweeted out that banning travel from anywhere did not work so now to read that they’re considering actual restrictions on Americans inside the country, I think it’s unconstitutional.”
Day after Trump issued a #Covid travel ban on #China Joe Biden accused him of “hysteria, xenophobia, and fear mongering”— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) February 11, 2021
The following month he said banning travel from any part of the world will not stop coronavirus.
But now he is considering restrictions on #Florida travel pic.twitter.com/MuCulpT6Hz
Meanwhile, Jet Blue Airline celebrated its 21st birthday and its first ever launch of 14 daily flights out of Miami International Airport. Its vice president of sales, David Clark, on hand for the ceremonies Thursday was asked about an idea floated this week by Transportation Secretary Pet Buttigieg and CDC Director Rochelle Walensky that would require negative COVID tests for domestic air travel.
Currently, the CDC recommends passengers get tested before and after air travel and self-quarantine for seven days.
When Clark was asked if he believed that testing every domestic passenger would be logistically feasible, he responded: “I think it would put a big strain on our testing capacity in the country. It is a pretty large amount of testing. Also we would question if that would be the best use of the testing capacity. If needed, there might be other uses that provide even more benefits.”
He added, however, “We fully support safety measures and doing what’s right.”
The potential testing requirement is drawing opposition from airlines. White House officials are planning to meet with executives from major airlines Friday.
At his press conference Thursday, DeSantis said that his administration had stood by Floridians for the many months of the pandemic and would continue to do so.
“We’ve saved jobs time and time, we’ve preserved small businesses time and time again and we’ve preserved the right of parents to be able to send their children to school in person. You look around the country, a lot of kids haven’t been in school since March of 2020.; that’s an absolute disgrace. We’ve led very early on on that and we’re much better for it. We’ve had to stand by Floridians throughout, time and again, and we will do so moving forward. We will not backdown and if anyone tries to harm Floridians or target us, we will respond very swiftly,” DeSantis said.
Rubio’s letter to Biden urged the president to “not pursue these draconian travel restrictions, and instead focus . . . efforts on increasing the supply of vaccines.”
(See the letter below.)
What the report does, however, is quote a White House Official, who told McClatchy DC: “We’re having conversations about anything that would help mitigate spread.”
It then quotes clarification that two federal government officials underscored that no policy announcement is imminent and all travel restrictions would be “taken in partnership with state and local governments.”
State and local governments have not been contacted about the ban.