Democrats on a Zoom panel Thursday decried a failed response from Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis regarding COVID-19 impacts to African-American and Hispanic communities.
Orlando Sen. Victor Torres spotlighted the increased rate of COVID-19 positive tests among Latino and African-American communities.
“We are essential workers … constantly out there being exposed,” Torres said. “A lot of people aren’t being tested in the Hispanic community. We have an issue with the leaders in this state and the federal government.”
“We need to hold Republicans accountable for this … against our people,” Torres added.
Sen. Audrey Gibson, the caucus leader from Jacksonville, focused on preexisting conditions putting some people higher risk for the disease.
The Senate Democratic Leader said “the impact on people of color got lost,” with “diabetes and high blood pressure” eliminated from specific discussion as underlying conditions.
“The DeSantis administration, the Surgeon General should never have dropped that issue,” Gibson said.
The Senator also mocked Jacksonville’s decision to open beaches.
“We open these up for people who aren’t necessarily socially distancing … sending mixed messages,” Gibson said. “There is a rush to open the economy.”
Meanwhile, working people “are being put into harm’s way,” the Senator said.
Tampa Sen. Janet Cruz said that the “black and brown community” shouldn’t “get used by big business trying to open up the state too soon.”
Cruz cited a survey saying 2/3 of Hispanics reported they would not get sick pay if out of work because of a positive test. And nearly half of all Hispanics have suffered job loss, either personally or of someone they know, in this crisis.
“Most of them work in the service industries. A great many of them have to be at the site at which they work,” Cruz said.
Testing has incomplete racial data, painting a flawed picture of how much more these communities are affected than the population at large with 26% of the state’s nearly 29,000 cases being of unknown race.
Rep. Fentrice Driskell, of Hillsborough County, was blunt.
“We need to push for these demographics,” she said.
“We need to know the data,” Gibson added, so that people can “protect themselves.”
The issue went well beyond data, however, with the critique of DeSantis becoming personal.
Cruz alleged a failure of leadership writ large, negatively contrasting DeSantis to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
“It’s a big mishmash of misinformation … it’s a disaster,” the Tampa Senator lamented.
“We have a Governor who wants to be President,” Jacksonville’s Gibson quipped.
She then added that Jacksonville’s Mayor and her frequent political antagonist, Republican Lenny Curry, “wants to be Governor.”