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Gov. DeSantis, AG Moody announce state will sue over federal vaccine mandate for workers

People should make their own decisions over their health care, the governor said.

TAMPA, Fla. — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Attorney General Ashley Moody said the state plans to sue the federal government after the Occupational Safety and Health Administration on Thursday announced its rules for large companies to have workers vaccinated against COVID-19 or submit to weekly testing.

The state is expected to file its lawsuit jointly with the states of Alabama and Georgia, with other plaintiffs joining.

"As the attorney general of Florida...I will file suit as soon as this rule is published," Moody said. "We'll be in court."

DeSantis was expected to hold a joint news conference with Moody but instead spoke Tallahassee with state Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo in the room. The governor argued that the OSHA rules aren't consistent with the U.S. Consitution and don't allow people to make their own informed choices over their health care.

The release of the rules, which are set to go into effect Jan. 4, followed weeks of regulatory review and meetings with business groups, labor unions and others, according to The Associated Press. The regulations form the cornerstone of President Joe Biden’s most aggressive effort yet to combat the spread of COVID-19, which has killed more than 740,000 people in the U.S.

OSHA drafted the rules under emergency authority meant to protect workers from an imminent health hazard. Senior administration officials said the rules preempt conflicting state laws or orders, including those that ban employers from requiring vaccinations, testing or the wearing of face masks.

"We'll stand up for people's rights, we'll stand up for people's jobs, and I think you'll see this put on hold relatively quickly as these cases start to get filed," DeSantis said.

Both the governor and attorney general consider the rules as an infringement on people's personal freedoms, with DeSantis likening it to "get jabbed or lose your job."

"This is not anti-vaccine," Moody said. "This is pro-freedom."

Last week, DeSantis and Moody announced the state would sue the federal government over vaccine mandates for federal contractors.

"We said we’d take action and we are. This lawsuit has been filed," DeSantis said at the time. "We think that we can hopefully get a preliminary injunction and be able to protect people's jobs from this mandate coming in and kicking a lot of good people out of work."

Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, the highest-level Democrat elected to statewide office challenging DeSantis for governor, called his administration's latest move "another taxpayer-funded political lawsuit."

"Let me be clear: I have never supported mandates, or telling people what to do with their bodies. What I have always supported is empowering and allowing local governments and businesses to enact the policies that are best for their communities, constituents, companies, and customers as they did when they helped us get through the initial wave of the pandemic," she said in a statement, in part.

The governor earlier in the day held a news conference in Jacksonville, where he continued to speak against COVID-related mandates for Florida children. DeSantis said he believes whether kids as young as 5 get vaccinated against coronavirus should be left up to their parents.

"That is a parent's decision," DeSantis said. "We're going to make sure that's enforced and that parents are the ones who can make these key decisions for their children and for their future."

The comments come the same week the CDC gave the green light for kid-sized doses of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine.

Select CVS, Publix and Walgreens stores in Florida are accepting appointments for children in the coming days.

To book an appointment at CVS, click here.

Click here for Publix appointments and here for Walgreens.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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