Florida doctors say they’re “angry and ashamed” over governor Ron DeSantis’s response to the resurgent coronavirus. The high profile Republican has repeatedly criticized federal public health guidance and vowed not to institute new lockdowns or mask mandates, even as the state becomes the national epicenter of the virus, with the Delta variant ravaging the unvaccinated segments of its population.
“While hospitals in our state were filling up, DeSantis was shouting about ‘Freedom over Faucism,’” Bernard Ashby, a Miami cardiologist who leads the state’s Committee to Protect Health Care, told WLRN. “If DeSantis were as concerned about stopping COVID-19 spread as he was about coming up with these clever jabs about Dr. Fauci, we might not be in this position.”
The governor’s office insists the state is in good shape under Mr DeSantis’s Covid leadership, with the recent spike just a “seasonal” jump, but Florida’s Covid data tells another, far more grim story.
“The governor has made countless public appearances all over the state to encourage vaccination, and he has spoken positively of the vaccines in public remarks nearly 100 times this year,” Mr DeSantis’s office said in a statement to The News Service of Florida. “He’s proud of the successful rollout and the Seniors First strategy, which means 85 percent of our most vulnerable population is vaccinated, and thousands of lives saved. COVID cases, hospitalizations and especially deaths are down significantly compared to this time last year.”
Florida is now the national center of the Delta-fueled Covid resurgence. Cases are up 50 per cent week over week, with 110,000 new ones this week alone, levels not seen since January when the vaccine wasn’t widely available. The state has a positivity rate of 18.1 per cent, and more people hospitalized than any other state in America.
What’s more, the people caring for those in hospital are at risk too: Florida health care workers have some of the lowest vaccination rates in the nation. An AARP report found that as of last month, just 42 per cent of the state’s nursing home workers were fully vaccinated, well behind the national average of 56 per cent.
“There is no higher risk area in the United States than we’re seeing here,” Dr. Aileen Marty, a Florida International University infectious disease expert, told the Miami CBS affiliate. “The numbers that we’re seeing are unbelievable, just unbelievably frightening.”
Despite the growing threat, Mr DeSantis has held fast to a stance against lockdowns, mandates, and other measures shown to stop the spread.
“It is very important that we say unequivocally ‘no’ to lockdowns, no to school closures, no to restrictions and no to mandates,” Mr DeSantis said Wednesday night in Salt Lake City at a conservative conference.
During the course of the pandemic, he ushered in legislative bans on vaccine passports as well as a provision that allows the legislature and governor’s office to invalidate local health orders if they “unnecessarily restricts a constitutional right, fundamental liberty, or statutory right.” He’s also threatened to call for a special session to black any national mask mandate for students.
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