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Florida bans strict vaccine mandates in schools and businesses

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Florida bans strict vaccine mandates in schools and businesses
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks during the welcome segment of the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Orlando, Florida, U.S. February 26, 2021. REUTERS/Joe Skipper

By Sharon Bernstein

(Reuters) – Florida on Thursday banned schools and businesses from requiring vaccination against COVID-19 and set the stage for a possible withdrawal from the federal agency aimed at protecting workplace safety.

Governor Ron DeSantis, a right-wing Republican widely believed to be planning a run for the U.S. presidency, signed the new laws in a community called Brandon, the same name used as a euphemism for a coarse epithet in a chant against Democratic President Joe Biden.

“We’re making sure that people have a right to earn a living, people have a right to have protections at their place of employment and that parents have protections to be able to direct the upbringing of their kids,” said DeSantis.

In a later announcement of the bills’ signing on Twitter (NYSE:), DeSantis referred to “the free state of Florida.”

Echoing anti-vaccine rhetoric, DeSantis repeated a misleading claim that vaccines do not protect against coronavirus infections, and said “natural immunities” should qualify people to return to in-person work.

The bills drew immediate condemnation from public health officials and Democratic leaders.

“Gee,” California Governor Gavin Newsom wrote on Twitter. “What could go wrong…”

The bills were passed in a three-day special session of the Republican-dominated Florida legislature called by DeSantis with the goal of thwarting coronavirus vaccine mandates imposed by the federal government as well as by private employers and school districts.

The laws allow employers to ask employees to become vaccinated, but also require them to allow people to opt out for religious, health and other reasons. People who previously had COVID-19 would be exempt despite evidence the vaccines provide greater protection against reinfection as well as serious cases that require hospitalization.

Employers who refuse to allow the exemptions can be fined up to $50,000 per violation. The new laws also ban government entities from requiring vaccinations. Schools districts may not require vaccinations or ask teachers and students to wear masks.

The laws also ban school districts from requiring otherwise healthy students who have been exposed to COVID-19 to quarantine before returning to class.

The legislature also directed the governor’s office to develop a plan to set up the state’s own agency for the protection of workers, which would replace the authority of the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Florida is among several conservative states suing the federal agency to stop it from enforcing the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate.

About 61,000 people have died from COVID-19 in Florida, the third-most-populous U.S. state, although new cases have decreased dramatically there in recent weeks as the summer surge ebbed.

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‘Stacks of bodies’: 46 dead migrants found in truck in Texas

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© Reuters. Law enforcement officers work at the scene where people were found dead inside a trailer truck in San Antonio, Texas, U.S. June 27, 2022. REUTERS/Kaylee Greenlee Beal

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By Kaylee Greenlee Beal, Kristina Cooke and Mica Rosenberg

SAN ANTONIO (Reuters) -The bodies of 46 dead migrants were discovered inside a tractor-trailer on Monday in San Antonio, Texas, city officials said, in one of the most deadly recent incidents of human smuggling along the U.S.-Mexico border.

A San Antonio Fire Department official said they found “stacks of bodies” and no signs of water in the truck, which was found next to railroad tracks in a remote area on the city’s southern outskirts.

Sixteen other people found inside the trailer were transported to hospitals for heat stroke and exhaustion, including four minors, but no children were among the dead, the department said.

“The patients that we saw were hot to the touch, they were suffering from heat stroke, exhaustion,” San Antonio Fire Chief Charles Hood told a news conference. “It was a refrigerated tractor-trailer but there was no visible working A/C unit on that rig.”

Temperatures in San Antonio, which is about 160 miles (250 km) from the Mexican border, swelled to a high of 103 degrees Fahrenheit (39.4 degrees Celsius) on Monday with high humidity.

The city’s Police Chief William McManus said a person who works in a nearby building heard a cry for help and came out to investigate. The worker found the trailer doors partially opened and looked inside and found a number of dead bodies.

McManus said this was the largest incident of its kind in the city and said three people were in custody following the incident, though their involvement is not yet clear.

A spokesperson for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE (NYSE:ICE)) said that its Homeland Security Investigations division was investigating “an alleged human smuggling event” in coordination with local police.

RECORD CROSSINGS

The deaths once again highlight the challenge of controlling migrant crossings at the U.S.-Mexico border, which have reached record highs.

The issue has proven difficult for U.S. President Joe Biden, a Democrat who came into office in January 2021 pledging to reverse some of the hardline immigration policies of his Republican predecessor Donald Trump. Republicans have criticized Biden’s border strategy ahead of the midterm congressional elections in November.

Mexico’s Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard called the suffocation of the migrants in the truck the “tragedy in Texas” on Twitter (NYSE:TWTR) and said consular officials would go to the hospitals where victims had been taken to help “however possible.”

A spokesman for the Honduran foreign ministry told Reuters the country’s consulates in Houston and Dallas would be investigating the incident. Ebrard said two Guatemalans were hospitalized and Guatemala’s foreign ministry said on Twitter that consular officials were going to the hospital “to verify if there are two Guatemalan minors there and what condition they are in.”

The I-35 highway near where the truck was found runs through San Antonio from the Mexican border and is a popular smuggling corridor because of the large volume of truck traffic, according to Jack Staton, a former senior official with ICE’s investigative unit who retired in December.

In July 2017, 10 migrants died after being transported in a tractor-trailer that was discovered by San Antonio police in a Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) parking lot. The driver, James Matthew Bradley, Jr., was sentenced the following year to life in prison for his role in the smuggling operation.

Staton said migrants have regularly been intercepted in the area since the 2017 incident. “It was only a matter of time before a tragedy like this was going to happen again,” he said.

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More than 40 migrants die in truck in San Antonio, others hospitalized

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© Reuters. Law enforcement officers work at the scene where people were found dead inside a trailer truck in San Antonio, Texas, U.S. June 27, 2022. REUTERS/Kaylee Greenlee Beal

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By Kaylee Greenlee Beal and Ted Hesson

SAN ANTONIO (Reuters) -Authorities found 46 migrants dead inside a tractor-trailer on Monday in San Antonio, Texas, the city’s fire department said, in what appears to be one of the most deadly recent incidents of human smuggling along the U.S.-Mexico border.

The San Antonio Fire Department said 16 other people found inside the trailer were transported to the hospital for heat stroke and exhaustion, including four minors. Officials also said three people were in custody following the incident.

The truck was found next to railroad tracks in a remote area on the city’s southern outskirts.

Mexico’s Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard called the suffocation of the migrants in the truck the “tragedy in Texas” on Twitter (NYSE:TWTR) and said the local consulate was en route to the scene, though the nationalities of the victims had not been confirmed.

There have been a record number of migrant crossings at the U.S.-Mexico border in recent months, which has sparked criticisms of the immigration policies of U.S. President Joe Biden, a Democrat.

Temperatures in San Antonio, which is about 160 miles (250 km) from the Mexican border, swelled to a high of 103 degrees Fahrenheit (39.4 degrees Celsius) on Monday with high humidity.

In July 2017, ten migrants died after being transported in a tractor-trailer that was discovered by San Antonio police in a Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) parking lot. The driver, James Matthew Bradley, Jr., was sentenced the following year to life in prison for his role in the smuggling operation.

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Sports & General

Dozens of migrants found dead in truck in San Antonio

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© Reuters. Law enforcement officers work at the scene where people were found dead inside a trailer truck in San Antonio, Texas, U.S. June 27, 2022. REUTERS/Kaylee Greenlee Beal

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By Kaylee Greenlee Beal and Ted Hesson

SAN ANTONIO (Reuters) – At least 42 migrants were found dead inside a tractor-trailer on Monday in San Antonio, Texas, the state’s Governor Greg Abbott said, in what appears to be one of the most deadly recent incidents of human smuggling along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Mexico’s Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard called the suffocation of the migrants in the truck the “tragedy in Texas” on Twitter (NYSE:TWTR) and said the local consulate was en route to the scene, though the nationalities of the victims had not been confirmed. A U.S. law enforcement official said there were more than 40 people dead without providing additional details.

The truck was found next to railroad tracks in a remote area on the city’s southern outskirts, San Antonio’s KSAT television reported.

There have been a record number of migrant crossings at the U.S.-Mexico border in recent months, which has sparked criticisms of the immigration policies of U.S. President Joe Biden, a Democrat.

Abbott placed the blame for the deaths on Biden’s policies on Twitter, saying they “show the deadly consequences of his refusal to enforce the law.”

The San Antonio police did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Temperatures in San Antonio, which is about 160 miles (250 km) from the Mexican border, swelled to a high of 103 degrees Fahrenheit (39.4 degrees Celsius) on Monday with high humidity.

In July 2017, ten migrants died after being transported in a tractor-trailer that was discovered by San Antonio police in a Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) parking lot. The driver, James Matthew Bradley, Jr., was sentenced the following year to life in prison for his role in the smuggling operation.

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