Florida – Florida’s way of handling the COVID-19 crisis has sparked a lot of attention and discussion. It showed a different method compared to other U.S. states. While many places put in place tough lockdowns and rules, Florida chose a path with fewer restrictions, aiming to keep both the economy and social life going while also thinking about health.
Florida didn’t impose mask and vaccine mandates during the pandemic
Governor Ron DeSantis led Florida with a clear choice not to require masks for everyone or close businesses for a long time. The state tried to look after people at high risk, like older adults, and let shops, schools, and restaurants stay open more freely than in some other places.
This was because of a belief that lockdowns could hurt the economy and people’s mental health, and this needed to be weighed against the pandemic’s risks. And Florida also had different approach when it comes to vaccination somewhat following Texas’ approach, which was completely different from states with imposed strict vaccine requirements like New York and California.
Just like in any other state, those who wanted to get the COVID-19 vaccines were able to get one almost anytime since the state was working with many providers to make sure different kinds of vaccine brands were available and easy to get. Florida lawmakers also voted for a law barring everyone in the state from imposing vaccine mandates, leaving that choice solely to each individual.
When a growing number of people started to report unwanted effects suspected to be caused by the vaccines, the Florida Supreme Court signed off on Gov. Ron DeSantis’ request to impanel a grand jury to investigate COVID-19 vaccine manufacturers for potential wrongdoing. This took place in December 2022, and until this week, no significant updates were provided regarding the investigation.
Federal agencies declined to participate in the investigation
But the panel on Friday confirmed that federal agencies, previously asked to provide more information and details regarding the vaccines and vaccine manufacturers, declined the help Florida into the investigation.
Some people who were asked to speak to the grand jury chose not to. They said that doing so could cause them problems at work or in their private lives. A few of them also doubted whether the investigation was being conducted fairly, according to a 33-page report the grand jury shared.
“Unfortunately, not all our investigative efforts have been met with fulsome cooperation,” the grand jury report states. “Some prospective witnesses have elected not to testify, often citing potential professional or personal consequences arising from their involvement with the Statewide Grand Jury process.” “Occasionally, prospective witnesses have raised concerns about the underlying fairness of this Body,” it adds.
Federal agencies also declined to share information and details about the COVID-19 vaccines
The grand jury also found out that the federal agencies responsible for managing the COVID-19 vaccine distribution haven’t been open with their information. The grand jury mentioned it doesn’t have the authority to make these agencies share the needed information.
“The Center for Disease Control (CDC), the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Army, among others, all had a substantial hand in the contracting, approval and distribution process for the COVID-19 vaccines at the center of our inquiry,” the report states. “These agencies have elected not to provide representatives to testify before this body, and federal law prohibits us from compelling their cooperation.”
In December 2022, Governor DeSantis called for a grand jury to look into whether COVID-19 vaccine companies did anything wrong or broke state laws during the vaccine’s introduction. He wanted the jury because a study by the Florida Department of Health suggested there might be more heart-related deaths in men aged 18 to 39 shortly after getting the mRNA COVID-19 vaccine.
Results of the investigation still pending
This grand jury started its work on June 26, 2023, but hasn’t made any findings on whether the vaccines work as promised in its early report.
“As of today, our investigation is nowhere near complete,” the report notes. “We remain in regular session and our Legal Advisor is actively scheduling future witness appearances. There are still many months and much more testimony and evidence to come before our work will be finished.”
Despite this, the report criticized health organizations and the federal government for their advice on wearing masks during the pandemic. It claimed there was no solid proof that masks stopped the spread of COVID-19 and that health agencies didn’t clearly communicate their limitations.
Additionally, the report criticized lockdown measures, saying they benefited a smaller, wealthier group of older people who could afford to isolate at home. In contrast, they harmed the long-term well-being of a larger group of less wealthy, young people, including children, teenagers, and adults in their twenties to forties, who couldn’t afford the same.
“If anything, the result of this was a modest benefit to the former group at the expense of the latter.”