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PANAMA CITY — Gov. Ron DeSantis openly defied President Joe Biden on Wednesday, saying he would “stand in the way” of any federal COVID-19 restrictions that would hurt businesses or take away Floridians’ rights to choose.

During a press conference in Panama City, DeSantis responded to a speech Biden made Tuesday calling for the Florida governor to “get out of the way” of people trying to fight the recent surge of COVID-19 cases.

The friction between Biden and DeSantis comes as the country confronts a fourth wave of the virus, one that has hit especially hard in Florida.

The state reached a new peak Tuesday of 11,515 people hospitalized with COVID-19, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

And 110,477 residents tested positive for the COVID-19 virus for the week that ended July 29, foreshadowing more people needing hospital care in the weeks ahead.

Previously: DeSantis downplays COVID concerns during Sarasota, Miami events

More: The delta variant is ‘ripping through the unvaccinated’ and crowding hospitals in Florida, Texas

And: Biden administration issues targeted moratorium on evictions for areas hit hardest by COVID-19

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis makes his point that he would ‘stand in the way’ of any federal COVID-19 restrictions that would hurt people in his state. DeSantis visited Panama City to announce the release of new money for hurricane relief.

“Joe Biden is suggesting if you don’t do lockdown policies, you should quote, ‘get out of the way’ … if you’re coming after the rights of parents in Florida, I’m standing in your way,” DeSantis said on Wednesday before receiving a round of applause from residents and local leaders.

DeSantis said he would stand in the way of anyone who tried to deny children an in-person education, impose mandates or hurt livelihoods.

“If you’re trying to lock people down, I am standing in your way and I’m standing for the people of Florida,” DeSantis said.

Florida and Texas accounted for one-third of all the COVID-19 cases reported last week, according to the White House. But unlike with previous waves there has been little effort at the state or local level to mitigate the surge in Florida.

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DeSantis shifted the blame for the recent spike in COVID-19 cases in Florida and other parts of the country on Biden, alleging that many new cases were coming across the southern border with Mexico.

DeSantis said instead of shutting the border, Biden wants to have the government force kindergartners to wear masks in schools as a way to control the virus.

“Well, I can tell you that in Florida, the parents are going to be the ones in charge of that,” DeSantis said about wearing masks in schools.

More: FL school districts rebel against governor’s mask order, presenting political test

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis makes his point that he would ‘stand in the way’ of any federal COVID-19 restrictions that would hurt people in his state. DeSantis visited Panama City to announce the release of new money for hurricane relief.

DeSantis did not mention that he issued an order Monday that threatens to withhold funding from any school that requires students to wear masks, effectively removing local decisions on the issue.

DeSantis also defied any suggestion that Florida would go along with vaccine mandates.

“We said from the beginning, we’re going to make it available for all, but we’re not going to mandate it on anybody. It’s ultimately an individual’s choice to be able to do it,” DeSantis said. “So, why don’t you do your job (Biden), why don’t you get that border secure and until you do that, I don’t want to hear a blip about COVID from you.”

Contributing: Zac Anderson, Ken Alltucker.

This article originally appeared on The News Herald: Fla Gov. DeSantis: will ‘stand in the way’ of Biden COVID restrictions

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