Coronavirus rates are rising in Florida, with the most recent data showing that the state’s current seven-day average of new daily Covid-19 cases is far and away the highest in the country.
But Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is up for reelection in 2022 and has long been rumored as a possible presidential candidate in 2024, stands firm in his more laissez-faire approach to the virus, dismissing ongoing criticism from Democrats and medical experts.
Even as he urged Floridians to get vaccinated, he argued on Wednesday that the recent spike is all part of the virus’s seasonal fluctuations. He cited research that shows that getting vaccinated reduces your chances of becoming seriously ill or dying is “effectively zero”.
DeSantis’ spokeswoman, Christina Pushaw, noted that the governor has been arguing for months that he “anticipated cases rising in Florida and other southern states this summer, as there was a seasonal increase in these states last summer.”
“It’s a seasonal virus, and this is the seasonal pattern it follows in the Sun Belt states,” DeSantis said earlier this week, before predicting a drop in cases in August.
This outbreak, fueled by the more transmissible Delta variant, has health officials across the country concerned. It’s the latest chapter in Florida Governor Rick Scott’s fight against the virus, which has been both lauded and derided as rates in the state have fluctuated.
Despite DeSantis’ decision to close the state later than others and reopen sooner, it appeared early in the pandemic that Florida had escaped the worst of the virus. However, surges in the summer of 2020 and now have exposed the governor’s claim that his leadership successfully guided the state through the pandemic.
Covid-19 cases have been on the rise in Florida, as they have in many other states, in recent weeks. Florida is averaging 6,492 cases per day, according to CNN analysis of Johns Hopkins University data, a figure that has nearly doubled in a week and quadrupled in a month. Florida leads California and Texas in this category, with a current daily average of 4,806 cases and 4,802 cases, respectively.
Florida had 45,449 new coronavirus cases between July 15 and July 21, far and away the most in the country.
In his efforts to combat the pandemic, DeSantis has pushed for vaccines — “Vaccination, on the other hand, reduces the number of people who end up in the hospital. It’s atrociously, atrociously low “He said this week that another lockdown in the state is unlikely, that he opposes any kind of vaccine passport program, and that he criticizes state jurisdictions that are advising vaccinated people to continue wearing masks.
“I get a little bit frustrated when I see some of these jurisdictions saying, even if you’re healthy and vaccinated you must wear a mask because we’re seeing increased cases,” DeSantis said Wednesday during a press conference in St. Petersburg. “Understand what that message is sending to people who aren’t vaccinated. It’s telling them that the vaccines don’t work.”
Even as DeSantis promotes vaccines and touts his Covid response, his political website capitalizes on anti-science sentiment directed at experts such as Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a top adviser to Vice President Joe Biden. Republicans across the country, including former President Donald Trump, have slammed Fauci.
A T-shirt and koozie for sale on the governor’s campaign website reads, “Don’t Fauci My Florida.” A quote from DeSantis appears on another set of koozies: “How the hell am I going to be able to drink a beer with a mask on?”
The items being sold were dismissed by Helen Aguirre Ferre, executive director of the Republican Party of Florida, as “a great opportunity to have some lighthearted fun and give his supporters a chance to feel even more connected with his message of keeping Florida free,” and she backed up Fauci’s criticism. She also claimed that the website wasn’t DeSantis’ official campaign website because the governor hasn’t filed his reelection paperwork yet.
Democrats have seized on the governor’s response, as well as products sold by his campaign, to argue that it demonstrates DeSantis’ failure to lead on the issue.