Gov. Ron DeSantis has done a deplorable job of handling the COVID-19 pandemic and the sooner he realizes it, the better off Floridians will be.
From initially refusing to shut down most beaches in March when the pandemic first hit – he wasn’t about to turn away spring break money – to hinting on Friday that he might allow bars to reopen soon, the governor has missed the mark on so many occasions during the pandemic that it’s hard to document them all.
Before we go further, let’s not forget that DeSantis is joined at the hip to President Trump and clearly takes his marching orders from the White House. Much like the president, DeSantis often appears at press conferences without a mask and at times just seems to take the pandemic much too lightly. He carries a big hammer and can make things happen, but we believe he’s too worried about how Trump might react and how it will affect his political future.
In watching DeSantis handle the COVID-19 crisis, we believe he checks in with the White House on a daily basis and finds out how high the president wants him to jump, when he wants him to do, and how long he should keep it up. He seems to conveniently forget that he’s at the helm in the Sunshine State, but again, his political future clearly is a much bigger deal to him than making unpopular decisions amid a pandemic like nothing many Americans have ever seen.
Case in point: DeSantis has had multiple opportunities to require face coverings in public and has even been at odds with Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried for refusing to do so. Masks mandates have proven effective in many other states and a recent poll found that 79 percent of Floridians supported such a measure, including 60 percent of Republicans.
But the I’ve-got-to-maintain-my-popularity-while-people-die governor has refused to take that much-needed step, opting instead to hold incessant press conferences with upbeat messages touting himself and his administration – all while the number of cases, deaths and people in hospitals continues to rise.
Yes, we know there are people out there who cry out that mask ordinances infringe on their civil rights. Many of them are sue-happy and can’t wait to take on governmental bodies that mandate masks. To those people – and DeSantis – we would say this: No one has the constitutional right to infect others with COVID-19, so do something about it!
But despite scores of doctors and medical professionals touting the use of masks to control the virus, DeSantis has remained adamantly opposed to such a commonsense measure. Frankly, he sounds like Charlie Brown’s teacher when he drones on and on about how each county is different so they each make their own decisions, blah, blah, blah.
Not surprisingly, DeSantis isn’t afraid to pat himself on the back as he touts his so called plan, annoyingly named “Safe. Smart. Step-by-Step.” That kind of we’re-all-great mentality has certainly been on display when the governor has visited The Villages. From his first COVID-19-era stop here in March to tout the disastrous testing effort put on by UF Health as the polo fields to his two stops at UF Health The Villages Hospital to offer praise for the efforts in the community to fight the pandemic, DeSantis has shown time and again that he truly has no idea what’s going on here in Florida’s Friendliest Hometown.
For instance, during a July visit when he touted the leadership of The Villages for its handling of the pandemic – and we’re guessing put in place the groundwork for future Villages Developer-inspired campaign contributions – DeSantis couldn’t stop talking about how well residents were handling social distancing and other precautionary measures.
We can only assume that he either didn’t know or purposely avoiding talking about issues in The Villages that at the time included large groups gathering at some restaurant bars, private parties and various other locations in the community. We’re guessing no one told him about line dancers congregating together in the Lake Sumter Landing area or the thousands of people who packed into the same town square for two separate golf cart parades – the majority of whom weren’t wearing masks nor practicing social distancing.
DeSantis apparently also wasn’t aware of Sumter County sheriff’s deputies having to patrol Lake Sumter Landing early on during the pandemic to break up gatherings on the covered patios, which eventually had to roped off to keep Villagers away from them. Maybe if he’d done his homework he would have known that a Villager had expressed fears about crowds in the bar area at Amerikanos Grille, maskless residents gathering outside Red Sauce in a large group for takeout orders and concerns about staff members not wearing masks at Lighthouse Point Bar & Grille, Palmer Legends Country Club and the Dunkin Donuts on County Road 466A.
That visit – on the same day that Villagers waited for up to an hour under the sweltering sun for COVID-19 tests at the Laurel Manor Recreation Center – prompted frustrated Community Development District 2 official Bart Zoellner to accuse DeSantis of using The Villages as a political prop. He said residents were “scared to death” and suggested that DeSantis should just “stay the hell out of The Villages.”
Unfortunately, that didn’t happen, as DeSantis was back at UF Health The Villages Hospital this past Monday, offering more praise for everyone from the leadership of The Villages to the medical staff at the hospital to The Villages Charter Schools for reopening under the pandemic.
Was DeSantis not aware that a student at The Villages High School had tested positive four days earlier – the first student COVID-19 case in the Sumter County School District since schools reopened? Maybe he should have done his homework again because of as Friday, five students at the school had tested positive – the most of any school in Sumter County.
And don’t even get us started on the fact that DeSantis had Trump’s new COVID-19 “adviser,” Dr. Scott Atlas, with him. The apparent replacement for the outspoken Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Deborah Birx on the president’s task force couldn’t stop fawning over the governor and The Villages. Frankly, we’d be surprised if he’d ever heard of the mega-retirement community before this past Monday and we’re guessing Trump purposely sent him down here to see friendly faces and praise DeSantis every chance he got.
If you’re still not convinced that DeSantis has done a lousy job handling the COVID-19 crisis, then please consider this: As of Friday, there were 640,211 cases reported in Florida, 11,903 deaths and 39,667 people hospitalized. When the governor greenlighted the reopening of the state on June 3, there were 58,764 cases, 2,566 deaths and 10,525 people hospitalized.
For the record, in just three months those numbers show a 989.5 percent increase in cases, a 364 percent increase in deaths and a 277 percent increase in hospitalizations. That’s largely because of inept leadership and until that changes, you can count on seeing more cases and more deaths among friends and loved ones – both of which could be avoided with the right leader in place to handle the state’s response to this crisis.