“There's a whole bunch of things we’ve been doing for COVID, but at the same time, we’ve lifted our state up, we’ve saved our economy and I think we’re going to be first out of gate once we are able to put COVID behind the country,” DeSantis told “Sunday Morning Futures” during an exclusive interview.
He stressed that by keeping the state open “you actually have new entrepreneurs coming to start new ventures” and new restaurants and hotels are opening in Florida.
“So people view Florida as the place where they can follow their dreams,” DeSantis continued, stressing that “it is a free state.”
He acknowledged that during the first few months of the pandemic, “when everything was grinding to a halt, we had a lot of problems like anyone, particularly because tourism stopped.”
“But since then we now have an unemployment rate that is significantly less than the national average,” he continued.
The national unemployment rate edged down to 6.3% in January from 6.7% in December – well below the April peak of 14.7%, but about twice the pre-crisis level, the Labor Department said in its monthly payroll report, released Friday.
Florida’s unemployment rate stood at 6.1% in December, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
DeSantis also noted on Sunday that Florida had a “25% increase in home sales year-over-year” in 2020 compared to 2019.
“If you look at the top 25 places where new home construction is taking place at the highest levels, plurality of those are in Florida,” he continued.
“So we have a lot of great trends,” he added.
DeSantis also stressed that Florida is “doing a lot to focus on protecting elderly people from COVID,” noting that “about 1.75 million seniors” have been vaccinated so far, which he said is about 40% of all seniors in the state.
On Sunday, the Republican governor also slammed President Biden's reported consideration for domestic travel bans to counter new strains of COVID-19 from spreading nationwide, calling it “unconstitutional” and “a political attack against Florida.”
On Wednesday, The Miami Herald reported that the Biden administration is considering whether to impose domestic travel restrictions, including on Florida.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki was pressed during a Thursday press briefing about the administration’s alleged consideration of a domestic travel ban.
"We are always considering what steps are necessary to keep the American people safe, but we are not currently in the process of -- no decisions have been made around additional public health measures that would delay or would change, I should say, domestic travel considerations," Psaki said.
Florida relies heavily on tourism, which means any attempt to stop interstate travel could have vast repercussions on the Sunshine State.
But according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Florida leads in the number of cases of the new B.1.1.7 strain – a more highly infectious variant of the coronavirus, first reported in the U.K.
Health officials are worried the new strains of the coronavirus that have emerged could sideline progress made by the vaccine, as the new variants require different treatments and change "the effectiveness of current vaccines," the CDC has warned.
DeSantis, however, has pointed to progress the state has made since the summer, when Florida was seeing spiking caseloads.
He told host Maria Bartiromo on Sunday, “States that are always held up by people in Biden's administration, like New York, have way higher per capita patients hospitalized for COVID right now.”
“So there's no basis in medical, there's no basis in economics, there's no basis in reality to do this except to punish a state that is doing it better than what his experts have recommended,” he continued.
“Biden is a lockdowner, his advisers are lockdowners. Lockdowns don't work. We’ve demonstrated that.”
He then said that Florida is “not turning back” and the Biden administration “will not be able to get away with targeting Florida.”
DeSantis noted on Sunday that “Florida schools have been open the whole school year.”
“Every parent in Florida has the right to send their child to in-person instruction, every worker has a right to work and earn a living and put food on their table and every business has the right to operate and consequently, our state is doing very well compared to these other states in terms of education and economy,” he continued.
Fox News’ Caitlin McFall contributed to this report.