Editorial: COVID-19 is surging in Florida. Don’t deny why, Gov. DeSantis. Act responsibly

Tribune Content Agency

On Tuesday, the same day that Florida posted the largest number ever of confirmed cases of the coronavirus in a single day (since eclipsed), Gov. Ron DeSantis stood firm declaring, “We’re not rolling back.” Meaning that, instead of letting the full picture of the spread of the virus in the state be his guide — along with medical experts’ advice, of course — Florida’s governor already has determined that everything is as it should be, now that businesses and public spaces have reopened.

We would have hoped that, in the face of a spike in cases, with too many Floridians still not taking safety measures seriously and with the possibility of a second wave of the disease, the governor would be open-minded and nimble should the number of COVID-19 cases continue to head in a worrisome direction.

This dubious stance should come as a surprise to absolutely no one. Ever since the pandemic started, DeSantis and his administration have been more dangerous hindrances than responsible leaders as the state responded to the disease and its deadly potential. He let spring break continue unimpeded; issued stay-at-home orders later than he should have; left the suddenly jobless stranded in securing their unemployment benefits through a broken-down website; sat silent on nursing home case numbers; and took bad advice from President Donald Trump.


DeSantis pointed out Tuesday, when a whopping 2,783 cases were reported, that the state is conducting many more tests on 3/8 a broader range of people, which, he said accounts for the increase in confirmed cases. Makes sense. As reported by the Herald/Times Tallahassee bureau, Florida has to test about 33,000 people every day. And in recent days, the state has exceeded that number. For instance, 50,406 tests were reported in Sunday’s update. The governor can take a bow here.

But that’s not the full story. Epidemiologists also point out that the numbers recorded point to a higher number of transmissions, too — a sign that people have let their masks slip, are not staying the recommended minimum distance from each other and have abandoned other precautions.

Last month, the governor ordered a rather conservative, phased reopening, allowing hard-hit South Florida counties to make their own decisions. From what we know about the virus’ incubation period and the ability of asymptomatic carriers to spread it, part of the recent spike could very well be tied to the state’s reopening. The governor is too smart to keep denying that link, but he does so anyway, determined to prevent further damage to the economy. His motives are understandable: Floridians have to get back to work, need to provide the family food and pay the mortgage.


Even the governor acknowledged that community transmission is playing in a role in the higher number of cases recorded, but then he shot down the notion that reopening restaurants, bars and other public amenities is a contributing factor.

And now comes the Republican National Convention, slated for Jacksonville this summer. How in the world will those tens of thousands of attendees be protected? Not well, not when they might have to sign a waiver freeing the party of liability should they catch COVID-19. Not, in an example of pretzel logic, when so many of their elected leaders are denying the coronavirus is a big deal.

Throughout, governor had the good sense to let South Florida leaders make their own decisions about how best to handle COVID-19. They and their constituents were on their own. They still are.


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