It’s been just one month since DeSantis “proudly welcomed” Trump’s move of the Republican National Convention to Jacksonville, Florida. At that announcement, DeSantis didn’t wear a mask, didn’t practice social distancing, and made it clear he expected Jacksonville to be a full stadium, no distancing enforced event. But after pulling the convention from Charlotte, North Carolina because officials there would not allow Trump to violate local health ordinances, Wednesday brought some backtracking as Trump declared he was flexible on the size and structure of the convention. Meanwhile, a coalition of downtown Jacksonville businesses are actually suing to keep the convention away as their city is in the center of a COVID-19 hot spot. So … it’s all good.
Also, by an astounding coincidence, the White House has announced that Jacksonville will be just one of three cities in the nation that will be getting free surge testing locations. I mean … what are the odds?
Trump pointedly moved his (vote-by-mail) residency to Mar-a-Lago after the state attorney general in New York kept holding him accountable to the law. His partnership with DeSantis has been linked to a mutual love of deregulation, deep-pocket PACs, and lying. Full-time lying.
But if Trump bet on the novel coronavirus magically going for a vacation in the summer, DeSantis doubled down on that bet. Even as other governors were enacting standards designed to protect their citizens from harm and reduce the rate of transmission, DeSantis was opening bars and gyms and giving Trump everything he wanted in putting the economy ahead of people.
Even as cases first crept, then raced, then exploded upwards. DeSantis has had an excuse—look at our death rates. While the case fatality rate in Florida, at just under 2%, is good compared to states that suffered through the largest blow in the first weeks of the pandemic, it’s certainly nothing to brag about, dropping Florida in the middle of the pack both on case fatalities and in deaths versus population. But then DeSantis started bragging on that one statistic at about the same time as he forced the state’s medical examiners to stop reporting COVID-19 deaths. As the data scientist behind Florida’s COVID-19 dashboard has pointed out repeatedly, Florida is hiding important information on both deaths and hospitalizations. Which makes having attractive numbers considerably easier … and makes the numbers now being published seem considerably worse.
The cover-up of information in Florida has gotten so bad that the sheriff of the county that includes Daytona beach was forced to sue DeSantis just to get information for his own area. DeSantis has issued a “statewide directive” against sharing data with the city and county officials who have to deal directly with deaths, illness, and a lack of support from the state. What they don’t know will definitely hurt them.
Florida is in exactly the position that Dr. Anthony Fauci discussed on Wednesday when he said: “I think any state that is having a serious problem, that state should seriously look at shutting down.” Except DeSantis has made it clear that he only has one forward gear and no brakes at all. The time to lock down Florida was over a month ago, at the time cases were starting to rise and DeSantis was busy spiking the ball on the 40-yard-line. The 65,000 new cases that have been confirmed in just the last week are the result of DeSantis’ unwillingness to shut down in June. So are the record number of deaths. So are hospitals that are filling up across the state.
Donald Trump is not smarter than the medical professionals. Ron DeSantis is not smarter than the medical professionals. And the idea that either of them deserves praise for ignoring the advice of medical professionals isn’t just ludicrous—it’s deadly.