He argued on Wednesday that the recent spike is part of the virus’s seasonal fluctuations, even though he urged Floridians to get vaccinated. He touted the data which shows that if you are vaccinated, your risk of becoming seriously ill or dying is “effectively zero”. And his spokesperson, Christina Pushaw, noted that DeSantis had argued for months that he “anticipated an increase in cases in Florida and other southern states this summer because there was a seasonal increase in the summer. last in these states “.
“It’s a seasonal virus and it’s the seasonal pattern it follows in the Sun Belt states,” DeSantis said earlier this week, before adding that he believed cases would decline in August.
This surge – spurred by the more transmissible Delta variant that worries health officials across the country – is the latest chapter in the Florida governor’s fight against the virus, a chapter that has been both heralded and condemned as the rates in the state have continuously changed. At the start of the pandemic, despite DeSantis’ decision to shut down the state later than the others and reopen earlier, it appeared Florida had avoided the worst of the virus. But the surges of summer 2020 and again now have put the governor’s argument that his leadership has successfully guided the state through the pandemic in an exposed position.
Florida, like many states across the country, has seen Covid-19 cases increase in recent weeks. According to a CNN analysis of data from Johns Hopkins University, Florida has an average of 6,492 cases per day, a number that has nearly doubled in a week and quadrupled in a month. By this metric, Florida overtakes California with a current daily average of 4,806 cases, and Texas with a current daily average of 4,802.
Between July 15 and July 21, Florida had 45,449 new cases of the coronavirus, by far the highest number in the country.
DeSantis urged vaccines in its drive to curb the pandemic – “If you get vaccinated, however, the number of people who end up being hospitalized is almost zero. It’s incredibly, incredibly low,” he said. week – but he totally ruled out another lockdown in the state, denounced any kind of vaccine passport program, and slammed state courts for starting to tell people vaccinated to continue wearing masks.
“I’m a little frustrated when I see some of these jurisdictions saying that even though you’re healthy and vaccinated you have to wear a mask because we’re seeing an increase in cases,” DeSantis said at a press conference Wednesday. in St. Petersburg. “Understand what this message is sending to people who are not vaccinated. He tells them the vaccines don’t work. “
Even as DeSantis promotes vaccines and touts its response to Covid, its political website grabs anti-science sentiment targeting experts like Dr.Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and Senior Advisor to President Joe. 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 series of koozies features a quote from DeSantis: “How the hell am I going to drink a beer with a mask on?” “
Helen Aguirre Ferre, executive director of the Florida Republican Party, dismissed the items being sold as nothing more than a “great opportunity to have light fun and give supporters a chance to feel even more connected with her message to keep Florida free “and supported the Fauci criticism. She also claimed that the website was not the official website for DeSantis’ campaign because DeSantis had yet to file their re-election documents.
The governor’s response, along with the products his campaign sold, led Democrats to leap into the latest wave, arguing that it shows DeSantis’ failing leadership on the issue.
“We have a governor who hasn’t taken Covid seriously from the very beginning. You know, he’s basically treating it like a joke right now. He has campaign merchandise on his website that says’ Don’t Fauci my Florida “. And we’ve seen nearly 40,000 Floridians die from Covid,” Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz told CNN this week. “And listen, I’d rather see us ‘Fauci our Florida’ than see people die by DeSantis. ”
And Brad Woodhouse, head of the outside group Protect Our Care, said DeSantis “continues to reject common sense measures to slow the spread of the virus” and that it “should focus on supporting overwhelmed hospitals in his condition.” .
DeSantis’ response comes as governors across the country try to tackle the spike in cases. In Arkansas, where cases have increased and only 36% of people are fully vaccinated, Gov. Asa Hutchinson has started meeting directly with people and urging them to get vaccinated. And some governors, like Jim Justice of West Virginia, have run lottery weeks for people who get vaccinated. Covid rates in the state remain low, but only 39% of West Virginia are fully vaccinated.
“We could be an entire hospital full of Covid in the space of a month if things don’t start to slow down or vaccinations don’t increase,” said Chad Neilsen, director of infection prevention. hospital. Neilsen added that 90% of Covid patients in the hospital are not vaccinated.
This was echoed on Wednesday by Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, a Republican, who said the best “way to get past the wave is to increase our percentage of vaccinations.”
“The math is clear, the vaccines work,” said Curry. “Restrictions on our economy and our personal freedoms are not the answer.”
Coronavirus cases remain far lower than they were months ago. But the spread of the Delta variant has health experts worried, leading White House officials to warn that those who are not vaccinated are at serious risk of variants. The United States now registers an average of 34,056 new cases of Covid-19 each day, according to Johns Hopkins University. That’s a 55% increase from last week.
“This is becoming an unvaccinated pandemic,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Rochelle Walensky said last week. “We are seeing outbreaks in parts of the country that have low immunization coverage because unvaccinated people are at risk. ”
Looming over all of this, including the latest wave in Florida, are DeSantis’ political aspirations.
The governor, who narrowly won his first term in 2018, is running for re-election in 2022, facing challenges that should be well funded by Florida Democratic Representative Charlie Crist and Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried – who both attacked the Republican Governor over the coronavirus.
“This is the result of @GovRonDeSantis asleep at the wheel during the vaccination campaign,” Crist tweeted, in connection with a story about hospitals filling up with Covid patients. “This inaction has put our people and our economy at risk. Do better, Governor, lives are at stake.”
And Fried said, “Nobody wins because you messed up, @GovRonDeSantis. What matters now is how we stand up and work together to protect each other.”
Jesse Hunt, spokesperson for the Republican Governors Association, dismissed Crist and Fried’s criticisms, arguing that “Democrats and the press have tried countless times to make this a problem to no avail.”
“It’s a sad attempt at relevance,” said Hunt, “on the part of two candidates who failed to gain traction in the race.”