13% = 6x the crimes!unread,
Dec 6, 2021, 8:02:39 PM12/6/21
TALLAHASSEE — Florida’s Covid crisis has wedged Gov. Ron DeSantis between
two competing forces: public health experts who urge him to do more and
anti-vaxxers who want him to do less.
The Republican governor has come under attack from the medical community
and Democrats as the Delta strain of Covid-19 sweeps through Florida,
turning it into a national coronavirus hotspot. The state recorded more
than 73,000 infections last week — four times as many as the start of July
— leading to overcrowded hospitals and more than 300 deaths in the most
recent seven-day period. Florida is now home to one in five new cases of
Covid-19 in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and
But as DeSantis encourages vaccinations — he said “vaccines are saving
lives” — he is facing a backlash from the anti-vaccination wing of his
political base. It’s the same group that praised him and helped thrust him
onto the national stage for his hands-off approach to the virus. DeSantis,
with 2024 presidential ambitions, has to walk the line between keeping his
conservative base satisfied and keeping his state from becoming more of a
disease hot spot.
“Don’t let political correctness get in the way of health choices,” former
Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn said recently of DeSantis’
comments, speaking on “The Right Side with Doug Billings,” a conservative
radio host and podcaster.
Another conservative radio host, Stew Peters, last week called DeSantis a
“sellout” and suggested the governor was taking bribes, though didn’t
specify from whom.
As infections and hospitalizations surge in Florida, DeSantis has largely
encouraged vaccinations while still rejecting restoring any Covid-related
lockdowns or mask mandates. He remains one of the most vocal voices
pushing for schools to do in-person learning, and successfully pushed to
prohibit local governments from instituting pandemic regulations.
It’s a strategy that helped him rise through the GOP ranks nationally and
allowed for early claims of success as the pandemic in Florida did not
live up to the worst fears of the national experts, despite spring 2020
photos of packed spring break parties in the state and fears of
superspreader events. But as Covid infections swell across the state,
DeSantis’ major achievement has the potential to backfire on him ahead of
his 2022 reelection campaign and potential 2024 presidential bid.
DeSantis’ office brushed off the criticism from conservatives, calling a
story reporting on Flynn and Peters’ comments “clickbait.”
“Most conservatives in politics and media do not find the Governor’s
statements the least bit controversial and have not made such baseless
accusations,” said Christina Pushaw, DeSantis’ press secretary.
Brian Ballard, a prominent Republican lobbyist and DeSantis supporter,
said DeSantis’ conservative credentials are beyond rebuke.
“I saw the Flynn comments and thought they were outrageous,” Ballard said.
“If Ron DeSantis is not within the four corners of being a conservative, I
don’t know what is.”
“There is so much disinformation that it’s literally crazy and killing
people,” he added.
Yet DeSantis’ strategy so far also has the governor running afoul of some
local governments and public health officials, who appreciate DeSantis’
pro-vaccination rhetoric but continue to lament what they say is a lack of
urgency to tackle the virus.
Officials in Palm Beach on Monday announced that they would require people
to wear masks inside city buildings or on town property regardless of
vaccination status. This follows California’s move on Monday to soon
require state and health care staffers to provide proof that they’ve been
vaccinated. DeSantis banned such “vaccine passports” in Florida.
Health officials, meanwhile, are also pressing the governor to provide
more assistance to frontline health care workers.
“Our city emergency leaders now have daily meetings with hospitals, and
while our city and fellow hospitals are all in tune to the ongoing
emergency and working to help each other, we’re not getting the level of
support from the state we were previously in the pandemic when the Covid
burden was much lower,” said Chad Neilsen, the Infection Prevention
Director at University of Florida Health in Jacksonville.
He said the state needs to restart releasing daily Covid-19 testing data,
which ended in January, and again declare Florida under a public health
emergency, which lapsed on June 26.
“By declaring a [public health emergency], activities can then be
authorized to help support essential services and functions in response to
the emergency,” Nielsen said. “This may be emergency funds to help pay for
staffing, or equipment, activation of certain support offices, and can
even open up availability to federal support.”
Pushaw, however, said calls for a renewed public health emergency are
“People are entitled to their own opinions, but there is an unfortunate
tendency among some of the governor’s critics to demand ‘a state of
emergency’ on different issues without any indication of what, concretely,
they believe such a declaration would accomplish,” she said.