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Coronavirus in Florida

Florida Democrats: ‘This Governor is dangerous to our health’

DeSantis has painted his COVID-19 approach as a success.

More than two months into Florida’s novel coronavirus outbreak not much has changed. Democrats continue to charge Gov. Ron DeSantis with mismanaging the crisis every step of the way.

Some of those previous criticisms have failed to bear out, however, as Florida has fared far better than many models predicted.

Thursday, Democrats jumped on allegations from former Department of Health employee Rebekah Jones that she was fired for refusing to “manually change data to drum up support for the plan to reopen.”

The Governor has countered that Jones was fired for attempting to place invalid data into the state’s COVID-19 dashboard. Democrats ignored that rebuttal in their Thursday remarks.

U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz asserted Jones was removed for “refusing to manipulate data” and accused the Governor of launching a “smear campaign” against her.

“Public health and our economy are inextricably linked and we need to make sure there is total transparency when it comes to how widely COVID-19 is really spreading and who it’s impacting,” Wasserman Schultz added.

“This was a highly-touted website. It was highly-touted because it showed a lot of different types of broad data and it was something that was comprehensive and easily accessible.”

U.S. Rep. Donna Shalala also hammered DeSantis for a Wednesday appearance with Vice President Mike Pence where the duo was filmed at Beth’s Burger Bar in Orlando without wearing masks.

“What kind of role model is that?” Shalala asked.

“This Governor is dangerous to our health. Not only has he been incompetent in his management of the unemployment insurance system, but he sends the wrong message,” referring to the mask incident.

The state’s unemployment woes also received attention from U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel. The Governor has been combative when confronted with claims that many Floridians are still struggling to access the state’s unemployment benefits well into the crisis.

“We’re grateful for progress made but the fact of the matter is we are getting still hundreds of calls to our offices and people are desperate,” Frankel explained.

“We’re hearing from people who’ve never been unemployed before. They don’t even know what to do.”

A Thursday morning jobless report showed an additional 223,000 Floridians filed for unemployment in the past week. That means more than 2.1 million have filed claims since mid-March.

Unemployment failures have been widespread as the Governor has recently sought to downplay the severity and cast blame toward the previous administration.

Florida, however, has not experienced as severe an outbreak as some models predicted — a point the Governor has been more than willing to emphasize as the state has begun its phased reopening.

Yet Democrats have consistently warned of a worst-case scenario when it comes to the Governor’s handling of the crisis.

DeSantis largely deferred to local governments before issuing a statewide stay-at-home order in early April.

Prior to that order, Democrats argued a delay would be deadly.

In a March 31 letter, Frankel warned such an order was “necessary to save lives and keep our health care system from being overwhelmed.” U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch made a similar argument a week earlier.

The Governor has pointed to the fact that Florida’s hospitals were never over capacity as a sign his approach was successful. He was, however, granted an assist from the state’s population. A Tampa Bay Times investigation showed Floridians were staying at home in significant numbers before being ordered.

“Thank God Floridians decided, on their own, to stay home as they saw the virus overwhelming hospitals in New York,” Deutch said.

Democrats have also warned against a “rushed reopening” of the state, though early data hasn’t shown any additional strain on the hospitals.

Democrats glossed over positives on Thursday’s call as they continued to frame DeSantis’ leadership as a doomsday scenario for the state.

“As a manager, as a leader of out state, he has failed the people of our state on every count,” Shalala asserted.

“You’re dangerous to our health and you need to stop acting like an adolescent.”

Added U.S. Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, “We demand better. We will be holding the Governor accountable.”

Written By

Ryan Nicol covers news out of South Florida for Florida Politics. Ryan is a native Floridian who attended undergrad at Nova Southeastern University before moving on to law school at Florida State. After graduating with a law degree he moved into the news industry, working in TV News as a writer and producer, along with some freelance writing work. If you'd like to contact him, send an email to ryan.t.nicol@gmail.com.

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