|By Orlando Sentinel Editorial Board
July 20, 2021
Florida was all over the news this past weekend with one of the nation’s biggest spikes in COVID cases and hospitalizations.
And where was Gov. Ron DeSantis as this health crisis resurged? Visiting hospitals? Consulting with physicians and public health experts? Huddling with his staff to brainstorm ways of persuading more Floridians to take the vaccine that would nip this pandemic in the bud?
Nope. Florida’s governor was in Texas, 1,000 miles from Tallahassee, burnishing his 2024 presidential ambitions with a visit to the southern border.
The governor was back in Florida on Sunday but, once again, not to focus on the COVID health crisis but this time to make fun of Anthony Fauci in a speech before a crowd of young conservatives in Tampa.
Always classy, our governor, who then encouraged the Turning Point USA crowd to go buy campaign merch emblazoned with Fauci mockery.
Predictably, DeSantis said nothing in his speech about how Florida has become the poster child (except perhaps for Arkansas) for the surging number of COVID cases attributed to the wildly contagious Delta variant.
Overall new COVID cases are up nearly 200% in Florida over the past two weeks, and Florida is third in the nation in per capita increases, accounting for nearly 20% of the entire nation’s new COVID infections. The rate of positive COVID tests is now well north of 10%. Recent data show Florida with the fourth-highest rate of COVID hospitalizations and the nation’s highest average for daily deaths over the past week.
Deaths have always been a lagging indicator in this pandemic, so the current wave of cases and hospitalizations could portend another summer of grief for Florida.
Meanwhile, Florida remains mired in vaccination mediocrity, compared with the rest of the nation. We’re a middle-of -the-pack state with barely 57% of the adult population fully vaccinated, below the national average. The AARP just reported that Florida has the second lowest rate of vaccinated nursing home workers in the nation, and a lower than average population of nursing home residents vaccinated.
And the governor is making fun of how Anthony Fauci throws a baseball?
To save lives, he must start acting like Florida’s governor and less like he’s auditioning for Turning Point USA or Texas Gov. Greg Abbott or whatever Fox News host comes calling.
The governor needs to launch another vaccination tour, like the one he did earlier this year that helped get a big chunk of Florida’s senior population protected.
DeSantis and his surrogates are constantly reminding us of his success with senior vaccinations. Why not come to the aid of other Floridians now?
DeSantis said Monday that he questions the tactics of the “quote-unquote ‘experts’ who lambaste people and criticize them or say they’re stupid or something.” DeSantis said. “That’s not the way to reach folks.”
Terrific. Then speak to people in terms that you think will work. Address their concerns head-on with facts and science. Ask them to ignore the social media agents of bad faith and lies. Stand alongside his surgeon general, doctors, nurses, researchers and other public health officials who will vouch for the vaccine.
Use vaccinated seniors as a backdrop. Bring clergy members into to the effort. Buy lots of time on TV and cut ads for social media. Maybe designate your wife, Casey, as the face of the campaign, someone who could appeal to young parents.
We know that hospitalizations of vaccinated people are rare and deaths even rarer. The Orange County Department of Health said that for the past three days 100% of positive COVID cases have been among unvaccinated people. One. Hundred. Percent.
As part of the new COVID offensive, the governor needs to restore daily COVID reporting of infections, deaths and other data. Those reports ended in early June amid declines and a case positivity rate below 5%. Clearly, conditions have changed, and so should the flow of information to Floridians. Now the public is made to wait in anticipation until Friday afternoon to learn what the virus has done in Florida.
At the moment, it’s as if DeSantis has washed his hands of the matter and moved on to elections, borders, critical race theory, mocking Fauci or whatever else will get him a headline.
And every few days, nearly as many people are dying from COVID as died in the recent collapse of a condominium in South Florida.
“Leadership is about handling problems.”
That’s what DeSantis told the conservative TPUSA crowd on Sunday.
We agree. Completely.
Please, governor, we’re begging you, handle the COVID problem. Be a leader.