Florida is now ground zero for runaway COVID-19 infection rates and, thanks to DeSantis, a case study in how an elected official can doom a state to a worst-case scenario. Via executive order, DeSantis has deliberately tied the hands of local officials and educators to mandate mask-wearing. He has also failed to make a high-profile vaccination push, though he has also admitted vaccines are saving lives.
The deadly combination has resulted in Florida becoming the sickly blood-red appendage on U.S. COVID-19 heat maps. Here’s a visualization of the Sunshine State’s progression from light orange on July 17 to red hot on August 7.
On Thursday, White House COVID Response Team coordinator Jeff Zients highlighted Florida’s dire status during a White House briefing.
“In the past week, Florida has had more Covid cases than all 30 states with the lowest case rates combined,” said Zients, “And Florida and Texas alone have accounted for nearly 40% of new hospitalizations across the country.”
But DeSantis’ most depraved move by far has been to leave children who can’t get vaccinated 100% defenseless against infection as they return to school by prohibiting universal in-school mask mandates. Concurrently, delta is landing more kids and sicker kids in ICUs than at any time during the pandemic.
“It seems that pediatric patients are a lot sicker than they were last year,” Anthony Sanders, pediatric ICU nurse manager at Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital, told Miami’s NBC 6 South Florida station. “The increase in the ones that are having to be admitted is striking to us.”
According to NBC 6, “Last week, 13,596 children under 12 tested positive statewide, 21% of those tested. One month earlier, 2,094 did, less than 8% of those tested. That’s a 550% increase in cases.”
Statewide hospital admissions for children have also seen a 520% increase over the last month, with 341 under 18 admitted last week.
Universal in-school masking has been studied, and it’s highly effective at preventing transmission, even amid widespread community transmission.
After conducting an extensive study of North Carolina schools, Dr. Danny Benjamin, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Duke Health, explained, “What we found was despite having extremely widespread COVID in the communities in North Carolina, if universal masking is in place, the chances of one child infecting another is less than 1 percent.”
That is nothing short of stunningly effective.
On Thursday, President Joe Biden lamented that masking—a public health measure—has been so politicized.
“This isn’t about politics. This is about keeping our children safe,” Biden said during a White House press conference.
Biden also stood in solidarity with health care workers, educators, and local officials trying to insulate kids from the worst of the delta surge.
“To the mayors, school superintendents, educators, local leaders, who are standing up to the governors politicizing mask protection for our kids—thank you,” Biden said. “Thank God that we have heroes like you, and I stand with you all, and America should as well.”
The bottom line here is that DeSantis and other GOP governors are putting kids’ lives on the line to score political points in their quest for the party’s 2024 nomination. In the meantime, Floridians are paying the price. DeSantis may think that depravity is good politics in a Republican primary, and sadly, he might be right given how radicalized the GOP has become.
But in a general election, killing off your constituents for political gain is a more-than-risky bet. The Lincoln Project is already previewing what the political attack ads might look like with their ad, “Back to School.” While you’re watching, just imagine an accompanying soundbite of DeSantis saying, “These waves are something you just have to deal with.”
As the ad notes while video of a child on a ventilator plays, “If you could prevent this, wouldn’t you?”
Not if you’re as morally bankrupt as Ron DeSantis or Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. Nope.