Gov. Ron DeSantis attempted to clarify and defend comments he made about agricultural laborers — remarks which have elicited criticism from Democrats and the workers themselves.
DeSantis, addressing reporters in Tampa, reframed his recent argument that farmworkers were a vector for coronavirus spread.
“I don’t know why they’re upset,” DeSantis said of critics. “When we had different outbreaks going around the state, describing where we’re seeing that is not anything to … I mean, that’s just what we do.”
“I don’t know why they’d be upset,” the Governor repeated. “We do have outbreaks in farm communities.”
Last week during a press conference, DeSantis said the source of many of the new COVID-19 cases were from “overwhelmingly Hispanic farmworkers and day laborers.”
“That’s just the reality. If you look at Immokalee and Collier County, if you look at some of the places in Palm Beach County, if you look at places in Martin County, we have seen that.”
While the Governor is “not blaming them for the outbreaks, that’s just the reality that there are outbreaks.”
“Some of those areas,” DeSantis related, “where they tested 100 farmworkers and had 80 or 90 test positive, none of them had symptoms or maybe only one of them had symptoms, so the disease burden is low on the hospital system.”
“But when you see positive tests and people ask where are the positive tests coming from,” he continued, “it was more a couple of weeks ago when this was really popping.”
“Some of these guys go to work in a school bus, and they are all just packed there like sardines, going across Palm Beach County or some of these other places, and there’s all these opportunities to have transmission.”
The Governor has since acknowledged that COVID-19 is increasingly “popping” with younger populations that aren’t traveling agricultural workers, but his comments about farmworkers, current or not, earned opprobrium in recent days.
Senate Democrats, who called for DeSantis to “rescind and publicly apologize for the hurtful and inaccurate comments,” likely won’t be mollified by his latest comments. The same likely holds true for the workers themselves, a representative of whom called the Governor’s comments “shameful” in comments to the News Service of Florida.
In comments on Bloomberg Radio, Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried addressed the issue of the farmworkers, saying that while her office didn’t see the uptick in the beginning, they are working to get them the health care they need now.