Joe Henderson: Once trust is lost, it’s hard to get it back

Ron DeSantis
Gov. Ron DeSantis has made several statements about COVID-19 that haven't proven to be true.

If people stop believing in an elected leader, it’s tough for that person to regain public trust. I think Gov. Ron DeSantis is close to learning first-hand how true that can be.

Just a week ago, DeSantis said he believed the COVID-19 pandemic had “stabilized” in Florida, but in the following days, new infections rose to terrifying levels. The state recorded more than 15,000 new cases Sunday, the highest for any state so far, plus more than 12,000 new cases Monday.

He hasn’t issued a mandatory mask mandate because he said people can be trusted to make smart decisions. But as the virus spread through the 18-44 age group, the Governor declared, “you can’t control…they’re younger people. They’re going to do what they’re going to do.”

I mention this because of Monday’s news that DeSantis requested FEMA send 1,500 nurses to Florida’s beleaguered hospitals. OK, that’s a prudent move – but DeSantis made the request on July 3, days before he said the virus rate had stabilized.

So, how do we know that the words coming out of his mouth today will be backed up by facts tomorrow?

The state’s determination to open schools is another example.

Schools have been “ordered” to reopen next month, but all that did was create more confusion. Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran acknowledged the ultimate authority for that rests with local school boards.

But here’s the statement that showed a disconnect with reality. In the Miami Herald, DeSantis said that if his young children were old enough to attend classes, “I would not hesitate putting them in, in terms of the risk.”

He said those under 18 who test positive for COVID-19 are “substantially less likely to be hospitalized for coronavirus than for seasonal influenza.”

Yeah, but what about the teachers and administrators? Or front-office support? Or the cafeteria workers? The bus drivers and custodians? If a teacher tests positive, will students need to be quarantined?

And if young people are going to “do what they do,” how can anyone feel comfortable about 2,000 kids in a large public high school wearing masks? Or practicing social distancing?

Everyone wants this to be over, but impatience can be catastrophic. And frankly, DeSantis often appears impatient. That can lead, as we have seen, to pronouncements that confuse the public and erodes confidence.

Granted, this is an unprecedented time, but people judge leaders by how they handle a crisis.

We remember how then-Gov. Rick Scott stepped up when major hurricanes had Florida in their crosshairs. He never tried to minimize the threat we faced from those monstrous storms. Scott was a constant presence during those times, reassuring the public that he was on top of the situation.

I mean, when Scott showed up in his Navy ball cap, Floridians knew that stuff was about to get real. No one believed Scott could make the hurricane go away, of course. But they knew he gave them facts they needed to possibly save their lives.

That’s what people want – straight facts without the political happy spin.

Once they find they aren’t receiving that, who knows if they will ever again believe what they are told?

Joe Henderson

I have a 45-year career in newspapers, including nearly 42 years at The Tampa Tribune. Florida is wacky, wonderful, unpredictable and a national force. It's a treat to have a front-row seat for it all.


5 comments

  • DisplacedCTYankee

    July 14, 2020 at 5:19 am

    When I was young and naive I thought anybody who went to Yale and Harvard (as did Gov DeMAGA) must be “pretty smart.” Later, after the scales had been lifted from my eyes, I spent two years contracting for Yale, during the Y2K Panic. Some people there actually thought the whole world might blow up on Jan 1, 2000. Huh. Legions of us contractors shook that Yale money tree for all it was worth. So much for the Ivy League.

    P.S. At Yale in 1999, the entire campus network ran MS PCs, except for the medical school, which used Macs and refused to get with the Gates Program. (I admit, Macs did graphics a LOT better in those days.) The medical school generated gazillions of dollars so they would not be swayed.

    P.P.S. — Joe, I am not even a techie. I, too, was a newspaperman.

  • Mr Fish

    July 14, 2020 at 5:29 am

    DeSantis is playing “prevent defense”

    He needs to protect the goal line at ALL COSTS over the next 45 days to satisfy Master Trump with the Republican National Convention, School Openings and NBA/MLS.

    No matter how bad it gets in Florida, he will not change his defensive posture.

  • Ocean Joe

    July 14, 2020 at 6:57 am

    It’s simple. DeSantis put his loyalty to Trump ahead of Florida’s best interests. He listened to Trump and waited to follow a federal approach that never showed up. Same thing on schools: Trump tweets they will open, DeSantis jumps on board. No plans and no problem with an arbitrary date. Experts say we face a second wave…this must be how they plan to fuel it.

    Rick Scott and hurricanes. He pushed the FEMA people out of the way, stirred up panic, ginned up a mass evacuation from southeast Florida over to southwest Florida where the storm hit. He gave out his phone number and refused to call that nursing home back. He meddled in Monroe County’s after storm clean-up slowing it down and wasting millions.

  • S. B. Anthony

    July 14, 2020 at 8:12 am

    We will remember in 2022 even IF we’re safely beyond the Covid disaster and that’s a big IF. He lashed himself to the fake impeached president for the rest of his political career. We have no reason to believe anything either of them has to say.

  • Mike Hennessy

    July 14, 2020 at 12:30 pm

    This guy makes Rick Scott look good? Better by comparison, but that’s a pretty low bar.

Comments are closed.


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