WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — President Joe Biden on Thursday unveiled his new strategy to combat COVID-19. In doing so, he took a swipe at governors like Florida's Ron DeSantis fighting mask mandates.
"Let me be blunt. My plan also takes on elected officials in states that are undermining you in these life-saving actions," Biden said.
Biden went directly at DeSantis about being at odds with local school leaders in 13 districts, including Palm Beach County, who are facing pay sanctions for defying DeSantis and mandating masks in schools. He said that is a parent's choice and the legal fight goes on in Florida.
Palm Beach County School Board Member Alexandria Ayala watched the speech.
"I felt relief and hope in the fact that the federal administration and President Biden have taken such a strong decision towards moving in the right direction to help districts do what we need to do to keep kids safe," Ayala said.
Ayala said when it comes to paying sanctions, at the moment, only Broward and Alachua counties are affected.
"The money is coming from the total budget," she said. "The money is not coming from the salaries of individual board members. I really want the public to understand that."
Biden also announced the expansion of federal mandates for vaccines that will cover employers with more than 100 workers.
Legal expert Peter Sachs said there are two opt-out uses.
"The people who are unvaccinated get a medical excuse for not being vaccinated or a religious excuse for not being vaccinated," he said.
The mandates encompass many more health care workers and demand federal employees and contractors to be vaccinated.
"I think private employers and local governments are in the best positions to make these decisions as opposed to getting a mandate from Washington," he said.
Ayala said she's been in talks with unions that represent the employees of the district to gauge how all of them feel about getting vaccinated.