He argued Wednesday that the recent surge was part of the virus’ seasonal fluctuations, despite urging Floridians to get vaccinated. He is promoting data showing that the chances of getting seriously ill or dying are “effectively zero” with a vaccination. And his spokeswoman, Christina Pushaw, noted that DeSantis has been arguing for months that he “anticipates an increase in cases in Florida and other southern states this summer as there was a seasonal increase in those states last summer”.
“It’s a seasonal virus, and that’s the seasonal pattern it follows in the sun belt states,” DeSantis said earlier this week, before adding that he believes cases will decline in August.
This spike – spurred on by the more easily transmissible Delta variant that worries health officials across the country – is the latest chapter in the Florida governor’s battle against the virus, both heralded and condemned as rates have shifted steadily across the state . At the start of the pandemic, Florida appeared to have avoided the worst of the virus despite DeSantis’ decision to close the state later than others and reopen earlier. But surges in the summer of 2020 and now again have put the governor’s argument that his leadership successfully guided the state through the pandemic in an exposed position.
In Florida, as in many states in the country, Covid-19 cases have risen in the past few weeks. According to a CNN analysis of the Johns Hopkins University data, Florida has an average of 6,492 cases per day, a number that has nearly doubled in a week and quadrupled in a month. According to this metric, Florida outperforms California with a current daily average of 4,806 cases and Texas with a current daily average of 4,802 cases.
There are 45,449 new cases of coronavirus in Florida between July 15 and July 21, by far the most in the country.
DeSantis has sponsored vaccines to help contain the pandemic – “However, when you are vaccinated, the number of people hospitalized afterwards is close to zero. It’s unbelievably, incredibly low, ”he said this week – but he has ruled out another lockdown in the state entirely, opposed any kind of vaccination pass program, and berated state jurisdictions for telling vaccinated people to continue wearing masks.
“I’m a bit frustrated when I see some of these jurisdictions saying that even if you’re healthy and vaccinated, you have to wear a mask because we’re seeing more cases,” DeSantis said Wednesday during a news conference in St. Petersburg . “Understand what this message sends to people who are not vaccinated. It tells them the vaccines are not working.”
Even while DeSantis is pushing vaccines and promoting its Covid response, its political website picks up on the anti-science sentiment that pertains to experts like Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and top advisor to President Joe. judges Biden. Fauci has drawn the ire of Republicans across the country, including former President Donald Trump.
“Don’t Fauci My Florida,” reads a t-shirt and koozie for sale on the governor’s campaign website. Another set of Koozies includes a quote from DeSantis: “How the hell am I going to be able to have a beer with a mask on?”
Helen Aguirre Ferre, Executive Director of the Republican Party of Florida, dismissed the items sold as “a great opportunity to have carefree fun and give supporters a chance to feel even more connected to his message of Florida freedom” Criticism. She also alleged that the website was not DeSantis’ official campaign website because DeSantis had not yet submitted its papers for re-election.
The governor’s reaction, along with the products his campaign sold, has led Democrats to pounce on the recent surge, arguing that it shows DeSantis’ failed leadership on the issue.
“We have a governor who didn’t take Covid seriously from the start. You know, he’s basically treating it like a joke right now. He has campaign articles on his website that read ‘Don’t Fauci My Florida’. And we’ve had nearly 40,000 Florida supporters who have died of Covid, “Florida-born Debbie Wasserman Schultz told CNN this week.” And you see, I’d rather see us ‘Fauci our Florida’ than let people die through DeSantis . ”
And Brad Woodhouse, head of the external group Protect Our Care, said DeSantis “continues to oppose sensible measures to slow the spread of the virus” and that he “should focus on helping the overwhelmed hospitals in his state”.
DeSantis’s response comes as governors across the country try to cope with the upward trend in cases. In Arkansas, where cases are increasing and only 36% of people are fully vaccinated, Governor Asa Hutchinson has started meeting people face-to-face and urging them to get vaccinated. And some governors, like Jim Justice of West Virginia, have been running week-long lotteries for people who get vaccinated. Covid rates in the state remain low, but only 39% of West Virginians are fully vaccinated.
“We could be a whole hospital full of Covid in a month if things don’t slow down or the vaccinations don’t increase,” said Chad Neilsen, the hospital’s director of infection prevention. Neilsen added that 90% of Covid patients in the hospital are not vaccinated.
That was confirmed on Wednesday by Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, a Republican, who said the best way to go above the surge is to increase our vaccination percentage.
“The math is clear, vaccines work,” Curry said. “Restrictions on our economy and our personal freedoms are not the answer.”
The coronavirus cases are still much lower than they were months ago. But the spread of the Delta variant has worried health professionals, leading White House officials to warn that those who are not vaccinated are at serious risk from variants. There are now an average of 34,056 new Covid-19 cases per day in the United States, according to Johns Hopkins University. That’s 55% more than last week.
“This is becoming a pandemic for the unvaccinated,” Rochelle Walensky, director of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said last week. “We are seeing outbreaks of cases in parts of the country with low vaccination coverage because unvaccinated people are at risk.”
Above all of this, including the recent surge in Florida, hangs DeSantis’ political aspirations.
The governor, who narrowly won his first term in 2018, is up for re-election in 2022 and faces the likely well-funded challenges of Democrats’ Democrats Charlie Crist and Florida’s Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried – both of whom have attacked the Democratic Republican governor over coronavirus.
“This is the result of @GovRonDeSantis sleeping behind the wheel during vaccination campaigns,” tweeted Crist, linking to a story about hospitals filling up with Covid patients. “This inaction has put our people and our economy at risk. Do it better, Governor, lives are at stake. ”
And Fried said, “Nobody wins because you were wrong @GovRonDeSantis. What matters now is how we get back up and work together to protect each other.”
Jesse Hunt, a spokesman for the Republican Governors Association, dismissed Crist and Fried’s criticism, arguing, “Democrats and the press have tried countless times to make this a problem with no success.”
“It’s a sad attempt to gain relevance,” said Hunt, “by two candidates who didn’t gain momentum in the race.”