Feb 12, 2021 - News
New talk of Florida travel restrictions by Biden administration stirs pot
People walk along Pass-A-Grille beach in May, when beaches in Pinellas County reopened for the first time in six weeks.
People walk along Pass-A-Grille beach in May, when beaches in Pinellas County reopened for the first time in six weeks. Photo: Zack Wittman/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Biden administration is considering whether to impose domestic travel restrictions, including on Florida, over fears that coronavirus mutations are threatening to reverse progress on the pandemic, the Miami Herald reports.

Why it matters: Citing unnamed sources, the Herald reports the new variants worry scientists and have lent urgency to a review of potential travel restrictions within the United States.

By the numbers: Florida leads the nation with the most cases of the infectious U.K. COVID-19 variant, known as B.1.1.7., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

  • The state has reported 343 cases — California is second with 156 cases — but the CDC says the number can be deceiving because the data is based on a sampling of COVID specimens, so it's not a total number of cases.

The big picture: Tourism is crucial for the state and local economy — 2019 saw a record 69 million visitors to Florida — but visits dropped dramatically in 2020.

Yes, but: There are positive signs that the industry is creeping back.

But, but, but: That could fall apart if the federal government restricts travel to Florida.

What they're saying: Any travel ban imposed on Florida "would be an outrageous, authoritarian move that has no basis in law or science," Republican Sen. Marco Rubio wrote to President Joe Biden.

  • "Instead, it would only serve to inflict severe and devastating economic pain on an already damaged economy."

What they're also saying: "It would purely be a political attack against the people of Florida," Gov. Ron DeSantis said. "And it’s unclear why they would even try talking about that."

For the record: The unnamed officials told the Herald that no plans are imminent.

This story first appeared in the Axios Tampa Bay newsletter, designed to help readers get smarter, faster on the most consequential news unfolding in their own backyard.

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