Critics accused Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) of bungling his response to the coronavirus pandemic as it descended upon the Sunshine State, but after weeks of scrutiny, the Florida governor’s response is standing as a national model, as the state — which boasts more than 21 million residents — outshines its blue state counterparts.
DeSantis faced mounting pressure from politicians and media pundits, who warned that he waited too long to formally close his state. The governor, recognizing the unique profile of Florida, which varies vastly from region to region, largely allowed localities to determine their course of action.
Critics hit him hard. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) accused President Trump of “conveying an epic level of negligence and incompetence that is costing human lives” and threw DeSantis into the mix.
“And it’s not just Trump,” she said last month. “It is not just Trump. Look at DeSantis in Florida, who’s just calling for lockdowns today and Florida beaches have been packed.”
While DeSantis formally issued a stay-at-home order on April 1, that order occurred after he had already taken aggressive action against travelers from coronavirus hotspots, such as New Orleans and the New York Tri-State area. He imposed screenings at high traffic airports — which proved to be successful — and checkpoints along the Florida-Georgia border and Florida-Alabama border. He also issued a 14-day quarantine for individuals entering Florida from virus hotspots.
After weeks of intense media scrutiny, Florida is outshining its blue state counterparts as DeSantis’s highly criticized coronavirus response proves to be right.
This becomes even more evident when Florida is compared to a state like New York, whose governor the establishment media have heaped praise upon throughout the pandemic.
Florida — which tends to have an older, more vulnerable population — had 42,038 confirmed cases of the virus and 1,875 related deaths as of Friday morning. That represents a fraction of a percent of the 21 million-plus residents in the state. New York, with a population of over 19 million — over 8 million in New York City alone— has seen an excess of 343,000 confirmed cases of the virus and 22,170 deaths, despite the implementation of draconian lockdown orders.
“You look at some of the most draconian orders that have been issued in some of these states and compare Florida in terms of our hospitalizations per 100,000, in terms of our fatalities per 100,000,” DeSantis said during an April 28 meeting with the president.
“I mean you go from D.C., Maryland, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, you name it; Florida’s done better,” he continued, stressing that his remarks were not to be taken as a criticism of other states.
“But everyone in the media was saying Florida was going to be like New York or Italy, and that has not happened because we understood we have a big, diverse state,” he continued, defending his tailored approach.
“We understood the outbreak was not uniform throughout the state, and we had a tailored and measured approach that not only helped our numbers be way below what anyone predicted, but also did less damage to our state going forward,” he said.
“I had construction going on, the road projects. We did it in a safe way, and we did it. I think, in a way that is probably more sustainable over the long term. So I think people can go back and look at all the criticism and then look now,” he added, noting that hospitals never came near capacity, nor did the state run low on ventilators.
“We’ve had people in the hospital, but I’m now in a situation where I have less than 500 people in a state of 22 million on ventilators as of last night,” he said during the April 28 meeting.
Even the left-leaning Politico admitted that the Florida governor’s fine-tuned approach proved to be successful.
“First, let’s just come out and say it: DeSantis looks more right than those who criticized the Sunshine State’s coronavirus response,” the authors, Marc Caputo and Renuka Rayasam, noted:
According to the latest Florida figures, fewer than 2,000 have died, and around 43,000 have been infected. That’s a fraction of the dire predictions made for Florida when spring breakers swarmed the beaches, and those numbers are dwarfed by similarly sized New York, which has seen 12 times more deaths and nearly eight times more infections. (Check out POLITICO’s coronavirus tracker for more.) More people reportedly died in New York nursing homes than in all of Florida.
The authors even recognized what could be contributing to the polling disparity between the governors, as DeSantis appears to be faring worse than Cuomo.
“But most of the difference between DeSantis and Cuomo is due to politics. DeSantis governs a politically divided state. Cuomo is a scion of Democratic royalty in a deeply Democratic state,” Politico reported, also pointing out the media’s devotion to Cuomo — a perk the Florida governor does not tend to have:
Cuomo also has something else DeSantis doesn’t: a press that defers to him, one that preferred to cover “Florida Morons” at the beach (where it’s relatively hard to get infected) over New Yorkers riding cramped subway cars (where it’s easy to get infected). In fact, people can still ride the subways for most hours of the day in New York, but Miami Beach’s sands remain closed. Maybe things would be different if DeSantis had a brother who worked in cable news and interviewed him for a “sweet moment” in primetime.
DeSantis has continued to hold the media accountable for the doomsday scenarios that never came to fruition. Hungry critics, again, went after the governor because he allowed localities to make their own decisions, leading to Duval County’s move to reopen its beaches. It sparked a firestorm among out-of-state media outlets.
“I think apologies can be sent to the city of Jacksonville, attention Mayor [Lenny] Curry,” DeSantis said in early May. “You may want to CC the mayors of Neptune Beach, Jacksonville Beach, and Atlantic Beach. But I won’t hold my breath on that happening.”
“The facts are that since this has happened, hospitalizations, ICU, rate of positivity, [patients on] ventilators — that has all declined. Those people were wrong and the folks in Duval County behaved appropriately,” he added.
DeSantis recently assembled a coronavirus task force designed to guide his administration in reopening the Florida economy. Most of Florida entered the first phase on May 4, loosening restrictions on restaurants and retail capacity. He also announced that hair and nail salons may reopen, albeit with certain restrictions.
On Thursday, DeSantis announced the approval of a request for Miami-Dade and Broward counties — which the virus hit particularly hard, accounting for nearly 50 percent of the state’s positive cases — to enter the first phase of reopening:
Today we take an important step for South Florida. Thanks to our collaboration with local leaders including @MayorGimenez, @HolnessD9 and @mayorbermudez, I have signed an executive order granting requests from Miami-Dade and Broward to move them into Phase 1. #SafeSmartStepbyStep pic.twitter.com/uOswDnIT3R
— Ron DeSantis (@GovRonDeSantis) May 14, 2020
DeSantis has also attributed the state’s success to his administration’s emphasis on protecting the most vulnerable — older individuals residing in nursing homes.
“Florida’s approach was to avoid introducing the disease into long-term care facilities,” he said on Wednesday. “We drew a firm red line.”
The same cannot be said for blue states, New York and Pennsylvania, for example, which initially instructed nursing homes and personal care facilities to accept stable patients who had contracted the virus. The action has proven dire, particularly in Pennsylvania, as nearly 70 percent of virus deaths in the Keystone State stem from nursing homes and personal care facilities.
“Florida prioritized support for long-term care facilities,” DeSantis said this week. “We took swift action to protect residents, including prohibiting COVID-positive patients from being sent back to facilities where they could infect others”:
Florida prioritized support for long-term care facilities. We took swift action to protect residents, including prohibiting COVID-positive patients from being sent back to facilities where they could infect others. Thanks to CEO @SteveBahmer & @LeadingAgeFL for the partnership. pic.twitter.com/7a82nW72Ge
— Ron DeSantis (@GovRonDeSantis) May 13, 2020
Despite continual warnings from leftist politicians and establishment media outlets demanding more draconian measures akin to the approaches ushered in and embraced by blue state governors, DeSantis is standing firm and continually reminding critics of their failed predictions.
“Clearly those doomsday predictions were not realized,” DeSantis said on Thursday. “Our hospitals actually had more capacity six weeks into the pandemic than they did before the pandemic began.”
“Total COVID-positive patients in the ICU since we undertook phase one has decreased by 21%. … There were 340 people on ventilators prior to us starting phase one,” he added. “There are now 232 as of last night.”