President Biden said at a press conference Tuesday that "some states" are enacting policies "that forbid people from doing the right thing" to hinder the spread of COVID-19, adding: "I say to these governors: Please help. But if you aren't going to help, at least get out of the way of the people that are trying to do the right thing. Use your power to save lives." When asked, Biden pointed to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R), both of whom signed executive orders preventing public schools and local governments from requiring masks, vaccines, or other COVID-19 restrictions.
"Their decisions are not good for their constituents," Biden said. "These two states, Florida and Texas, account for one third of all new COVID-19 cases in the entire country," and their governors "should allow businesses and universities who want to do the right thing to be able to do it."
"Until now, Biden has largely sought to avoid statements that could exacerbate the partisan cast of the vaccine debate and has gone out of his way to praise Republicans who are promoting vaccinations," The Washington Post reports. "But the White House has grown increasingly frustrated with leaders who are actively seeking to block efforts to encourage or require vaccinations."
Abbott spokeswoman Renae Eze said the governor "has been clear that we must rely on personal responsibility, not government mandates. Every Texan has a right to choose for themselves and their children whether they will wear masks, open their businesses, or get vaccinated." Earlier Tuesday, before Biden's comments, DeSantis suggested the news media's "hysteria" and attempts "to fear-monger" were making Florida's outbreak seem worse than it actually is, noting that deaths have not risen as much as infections.
DeSantis has repeatedly urged all Floridians to voluntarily get vaccinated and touts his efforts to vaccinate senior citizens. Florida ranks 24th in overall U.S. vaccinations, with 49.1 percent of the state's entire population fully inoculated. In Texas, 43.9 percent of the entire population has been fully vaccinated.