COVID-19 in Florida prisons? Could be worse, Governor says
Gov. Ron DeSantis

DeSantis
DeSantis resisted calls to let out sick or elderly inmates.

Gov. Ron DeSantis offered his most extensive comments so far on COVID-19 in prisons on Wednesday, and a major takeaway was that it’s worse elsewhere.

“We obviously are having cases,” DeSantis said in Tallahassee in response to a reporter’s question. “You will continue to see some cases coming out of prisons.”

But in other states, he added, the problem is more extreme.

“If you look at some of these other states you’ll have massive outbreaks in prisons,” DeSantis said. “There’s some states where you have five, six, seven hundred prisoners, a thousand prisoners testing positive.”

Florida doesn’t have 1,000 prisoners testing positive, not yet, at least.

May 13th stats from the Florida Department of Corrections show 843 positive tests, compared to 3,876 negative tests, an 18% positivity rate. More than 6,000 others are in medical quarantine.

More than 1,600 tests are still pending, and if that positivity rate holds, 1,000 infected prisoners are not too far away.

The Governor initially seemed to underestimate the severity of the problem, noting Wednesday that while “the percentage of positive tests has been higher than the state as a whole,” his guess was that was only “between 10 and 15% in the prisons.”

By Thursday, his comms team issued a corrective social media post.

“We had yesterday 100 prisoners in Hamilton County and one of the rural counties. We have had it,” DeSantis noted Wednesday, before saying that elsewhere “there are prisons … with 75% testing positive.”

The Governor was optimistic in his spitballing. Hamilton actually had 112 positives. However, that number pales in comparison to the 191 diagnoses at Liberty.

Though 208 staffers systemwide have tested positive, and though the trend at many facilities has been staff infection as a prologue to inmate infection, the Governor marveled at how “amazing” the “percentage of people testing negative was.”

“In the long-term care, you’ll have staff outbreaks. In the prison, it’s been very small. One or two here, one or two there. I was expecting to see a lot of staff members testing positive, but you just haven’t seen it, and that’s something that’s been very, very important,” DeSantis said.

The Governor rejected calls to release immunocompromised and elderly inmates well before the first diagnoses in prisons.

What’s clear is that he has seen nothing to change his mind, and that issues in mass incarceration facilities are unique to themselves.

“It’s not that it doesn’t matter, it’s just a discrete issue,” DeSantis said, separate from “community outbreak.”

A.G. Gancarski

A.G. Gancarski has been a correspondent for FloridaPolitics.com since 2014. In 2018, he was a finalist for an Association of Alternative Newsweeklies "best political column." He can be reached at [email protected]


7 comments

  • Frankie M.

    May 13, 2020 at 3:36 pm

    At least we now know why Ronnie fought against Amendment 4 so hard. It’s ok Ronnie we all know what you mean. “It’s not that it doesn’t matter, it’s just a discrete issue”…shit man you might as well say they don’t matter. They don’t vote so they don’t count. It’s like when he wanted to send kids back to school in April. They might as well be on a cruise ship or in an assisted living facility. It’s just all semantics. As long as they’re isolated who gives a shite if they’re on a cruise ship, ALF, or prison, amirite? Lenny doesn’t count ALF in his counts either. I’m noticing a pattern…hmmmm. And these are the people who are supposed to be looking out for our welfare? smh

    • Patricia

      May 13, 2020 at 8:28 pm

      DeSantis is a joke. He will do everything in his absolute power to refrain from any type of prison decarceration and also bend over backwards to make sure ex felons never get opportunity to vote while “owing money back to the state”. He has made Florida nothing but a shithole. He does NOT care one bit.

  • Sonja Fitch

    May 13, 2020 at 4:05 pm

    Duffus Desantis life is life. Release the sick and elderly from prison. If it is good enough for criminal goptrump cult manafort. Or is it in the goptrump cult you are in only rich white men are released. Genocide is what you are doingDuffus Desantis

    • Stefanie

      May 13, 2020 at 8:37 pm

      He has no consideration for human life. Not the incarcerated not the DOC and not us out here. He does not care if virus continues to spread.He still allows prison transfers to take place and therefore puts the prisons not affected at risk by transferring those who were exposed,no quarantine, no nothing. He is allowing the spread intentionally to use as form of prison population control. That is what he wants,also being symptomatic and administering tests will allow him Fed reimbursement. He wants nothing more than his almighty dollar back. Exactly what you say….GENOCIDE…

  • Concerned for ALL

    May 13, 2020 at 8:24 pm

    This Governor here does not give a shit about prisons…nothing will be done as long as he is in office. I think legislators should make a move to remove / impeach him from office…the only reason he is testing anyway is for Fed reimbursement…other than getting $$$$ he would not do shit…he would let the incarcerated die AND would not give a crap about the DOC employees either…this man is a heartless snake…I hope Florida wakes up next election and votes his ars out of office….he fights ex felons voting because he knows he is garbage and he knows if they have a say….it will be dueces to you Gov Dum Dum…..

  • martin

    May 16, 2020 at 4:51 pm

    all our efforts should be devoted to protecting our fragile seniors. Next protect front line health care workers as well as corrections employee’s. Inmates..feh, let them rot.

    • Jason

      May 17, 2020 at 6:07 pm

      Well Martin kudos to you and your very obvious lack of compassion for those imprisoned. I guess you don’t take into consideration for those who are imprisoned who are not guilty or those who have been extremely over-sentenced for non-violent crimes. Are they not eligible according to your standards if they happen to be vulnerable, elderly and/or sickly? It is clearly indicated by your comment that you are as ignorant as they come not even being aware that that many are put into prison under false pretenses and/or a “justice system” that does not seek real justice entirely based on evidence or truth but simply a conviction to satisfy the court docket for that day and to get the plea..possibly even coerced because that happens all the time or to just close out the case because it is crowding the desktop of the lovely prosecutors office. You sir, are what a large part of America could be called, small-minded and also part of a huge problem in society. Your inability to observe how disgusting the criminal legal,not criminal justice system, really is is arrogant and ignorant as well as pathetic to make a statement to…feh, let them rot. I am sure if you or someone you loved dearly was entangled up in a prison mess during this time..you would be dancing a whole different dance to the music. I will pray for you and yours and hope no one you love shall ever be in the wrong place at the wrong time or ever be desperate enough to do something unacceptable in the eyes of this society and to never face time behind the walls of death, murder, rape and abuse. I do not think you could handle it. God bless you.

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