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Biden administration looking at domestic travel restrictions as COVID variant spreads: report

Florida leads the nation in the number of new cases of COVID-19 caused by the U.K. variant, according to the CDC.

MIAMI — The White House is considering restrictions on domestic travel given emerging variants of COVID-19, according to the Miami Herald.

This may include travel restrictions in several states, the newspaper says, including Florida and California. President Joe Biden's administration reportedly is worried that new outbreaks, like the U.K. variant, could provide setbacks in the fight against the coronavirus.

Any decision to limit or restrict travel, the Herald reports citing two government officials, will be made with state and local governments. The newspaper notes no policy announcements are imminent.

"There are active conversations about what could help mitigate spread here, but we have to follow the data and what’s going to work," a White House official told the Herald. "We did this with South Africa, we did this with Brazil, because we got clear guidance.

"But we’re having conversations about anything that would help mitigate spread."

Florida leads the nation with the most number of the infectious U.K. COVID-19 variant, known as B.1.1.7., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It shows the state is reporting 343 cases, with California at 156 cases, but the CDC says the small number can be deceiving. 

The data is based on a sampling of COVID specimens, so it's not a total number of cases.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, tweeted "unreal" in reaction to the Herald's reporting. He also falsely claimed Biden opposed a travel ban on China. On April 3, then-candidate Biden's campaign told CNN he supported then-President Donald Trump's decision to ban foreign nationals who had recently been in China.

RELATED: President Biden to reinstate COVID-19 travel restrictions, add South Africa to list

RELATED: 'Act now': Doctors urge leaders impose COVID restrictions again before UK variant becomes dominant

Rubio also wrote a letter to Biden, saying any travel ban imposed upon Florida "would be an outrageous, authoritarian move that has no basis in law or science. Instead, it would only serve to inflict severe and devastating economic pain on an already damaged economy."

The Herald reports it remains a question whether courts would uphold federal restrictions on domestic travel. It notes, however, the federal government can restrict travel between states during a pandemic.

"The Surgeon General, with the approval of the Secretary, is authorized to make and enforce such regulations as in his judgment are necessary to prevent the introduction, transmission, or spread of communicable diseases from foreign countries into the States or possessions, or from one State or possession into any other State or possession," reads the Public Health Service Act.

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