Florida doctors and Democratic lawmakers are calling out Republican Governor Ron DeSantis for his anti-scientific approach to Covid-19. DeSantis has been an opponent of measures designed to curb the virus’s spread—such as mask mandates—despite the rising number of cases in his state.
“The consequence of his leadership has been a steep rise in Covid-19 cases and increased numbers of Floridians dying,” Dr. Frederick Southwick, a University of Florida physician and member of the Committee to Protect Health Care, told WPBF News in Palm Beach.
“As a physician and a Floridian, I am frankly angry and ashamed,” said cardiologist Dr. Bernard Ashby, who leads the committee’s Florida chapter, according to WLRN.
Florida’s Democratic congressional lawmakers are also concerned, writing in a letter to DeSantis this week about their “grave and urgent concern over the worsening COVID-19 surge in Florida.”
“Since the start of the pandemic, Florida has remained a national focal point due to your administration’s lax, delayed, and incomplete responses to this serious threat,” the lawmakers wrote. “Your administration’s reluctance to use all the science- and evidence-based tools available to defeat the virus has created unwarranted roadblocks at the local level.”
For the last two weeks, one out of every five new cases of Covid-19 is in Florida, according to the White House. And hospitalization rates have skyrocketed by 95 percent over last month. Despite that news, DeSantis has staunchly refused to implement mask requirements—even in public schools, where children under 12 are not yet old enough to be vaccinated against the virus—and continues to use his gubernatorial powers to undermine local Covid mandates. Just last month, DeSantis issued a “blanket pardon” for any person or business that non-violently refuses to comply with local Covid-19 measures in the state. DeSantis has also sued the Biden administration and CDC to re-open the cruise industry.
Meanwhile, vaccination rates in the state’s rural areas remain low, despite DeSantis’s recent promotion of the vaccine. Although across the state 60 percent of residents above the age of 12 are vaccinated, counties in northern parts of the state are around 30 percent vaccinated. And vaccination rates have decreased by 80 percent since April. Yet DeSantis’s administration has acted as if the pandemic is over, discontinuing daily reporting of Covid-19 cases and banning businesses from requiring proof of vaccination.
“At the same time as DeSantis says the vaccines are effective—which they are—he’s also banning businesses from requiring proof of vaccination,” Dr. Mona Mangat, an immunologist who is also a member of the physicians’ committee, told WLRN. “He has taken away private companies’ ability to protect their employees and customers by requiring the safe and readily available vaccine.”
Instead, DeSantis is trolling the administration and selling merchandise mocking Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert and chief medical advisor to the White House. His campaign store is selling t-shirts that say “Don’t Fauci my Florida” and a koozie with a DeSantis quote: “How the hell am I going to be able to drink a beer with a mask on?”
But Ashby is not impressed. “If DeSantis were as concerned about stopping Covid-19 spread as he was about coming up with these clever jabs at Dr. Fauci we might not be in this position,” Dr. Ashby said.