A few weeks ago, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis was the subject of a glowing profile in Politico that was built around an absurd premise: “How Ron DeSantis won the pandemic.” The story suggested that the number of deaths in Florida from the Covid-19 virus — at least 32,000 at the time — was a victory for DeSantis and his defiant, performative right-wing decision-making. Somehow, this qualified as a win:
Now, though, it’s a year into the pandemic—and the apocalypse has yet to arrive. It’s been, no doubt, a wrenching year. Approximately 2 million Floridians have tested positive for the coronavirus and more than 32,000 have died, the disbursement of unemployment benefits has been stingy and uneven, the vaccine rollout has been pockmarked by tales of lengthy waits, balky websites and numerous charges of socioeconomic inequities and political favoritism. Ominous variants lurk.
We’ll get into those various disasters in a minute, but I want to focus first on the vaccine rollout bit. The “numerous charges of socioeconomic inequities and political favoritism” line is putting it lightly. DeSantis’s administration has heavily favored white, wealthy, politically connected communities in Florida’s roll-out, and a new story in 60 Minutes tonight explains why:
The Publix donation was only a small part of the disaster-by-design, though Publix is really only in wealthy communities. DeSantis lied about how that decision was made, by the way, which fits a real pattern.
DeSantis has every step of the way worked to favor wealthy communities — even non-Floridians — instead of working people and people of color. The case of neighbors Palm Beach (an incredibly wealthy city) and West Palm Beach (a very poor one) underscores the drastic difference:
In West Palm Beach, Mayor James says he was still trying to secure vaccines for his town’s firefighters when he learned that at a nursing home in town, some board members and their wealthy pals got vaccinated. Even though those doses were only supposed to be given to elderly residents and staff.
Hollywood moguls, New York socialites and tourists from overseas were getting vaccinated in Florida, posting on social media and sparking outrage. Early on, there were no residency requirements to get vaccinated in the state.
By February 1, casualties of the chaotic rollout became clear.
State data revealed of the more than 160,000 residents in Palm Beach County who’d been vaccinated, only 2% were Black and 3% Hispanic. Even though minorities make up almost half the county.
It’s even worse in some cities. DeSantis prioritized seniors over teachers and first responders, then made it impossible, with faulty websites and impossible lines, for anyone without a political connection to get the vaccine.
This is a pattern for Ron DeSantis, who has throughout the entire pandemic led based on politics and sociopathy, not compassion or even competence. This weekend alone, he basically outlawed vaccine passports in the state, even banning private businesses from requiring them from customers. With no mask mandate, no vaccines, and no passport, not to mention no limits on what people can do, he’s basically inviting a surge in cases, which is exactly what is happening. Right now, Florida leads the country in Covid variant cases.
DeSantis’s ignorance and stubbornness rivaled only that of Donald Trump and South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem’s. Just look at this timeline I put together for my newsletter/site:
- July 12th: Florida sets the national record with over 15,000 new cases in a single day.
- August 7th: DeSantis and his education commissioner threatened to withhold funding from schools that did not open up to in-person classes five days a week.
- August 24th: A judge rules that they could not extort school districts if teachers and health officials did not believe it was safe to resume in-person classes.
- September 10th: DeSantis allowed bars and restaurants to reopen for indoor service. Cities such as Tallahassee and Panama City continue to record increases in COVID-19 cases.
- September 25th: DeSantis reopens the entire state. He goes so far as to ban any cities from creating more than a 50% capacity restriction on restaurants, bars, and other locations where the disease is known to spread.
Even more egregiously, DeSantis ran an obvious cover-up of COVID deaths down the stretch in October and November, helping Donald Trump win the state and then seizing the computers of the whistleblower who was trying to keep an honest count.
The state has officially suffered well over 30,00 deaths. And so many of them were preventable, had DeSantis listened to science instead of burnishing his strong-man image and national ambitions:
As Florida became a global epicenter of the coronavirus, Gov. Ron DeSantis held one meeting this month with his top public health official, Scott Rivkees, according to the governor’s schedule. His health department has sidelined scientists, halting briefings last month with disease specialists and telling the experts there was not sufficient personnel from the state to continue participating.
“I never received information about what happened with my ideas or results,” said Thomas Hladish, a University of Florida research scientist whose regular calls with the health department ended June 29. “But I did hear the governor say the models were wrong about everything.”
As the virus spread out of control in Florida, decision-making became increasingly shaped by politics and divorced from scientific evidence, according to interviews with 64 current and former state and administration officials, health administrators, epidemiologists, political operatives and hospital executives. The crisis in Florida, these observers say, has revealed the shortcomings of a response built on shifting metrics, influenced by a small group of advisers and tethered at every stage to the Trump administration.
This is the guy that Republicans are beginning to tout as a potential real contender for the 2024 nomination if Donald Trump doesn’t run. This is the best they have. And as we’re seeing, the media is too often giving him a pass for the disaster that’s happening in Florida. The state’s unforgivably broken unemployment system is still not fixed. He’s bullied teachers nonstop for the past year. He’s openly corrupt. It sounds a whole lot like Trump 2.0. Let’s not let the media enable him the same way they enabled Trump.
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