A family member from Houston sent me a text Friday afternoon that read: You guys are making Texas look good.
That’s not a club anyone wants to join, but Florida did just that.
If you felt something whiz past your ear, it was probably the caution Gov. Ron DeSantis threw into the wind with his open-for-business-virus-be-damned declaration.
Effective immediately, the state moved into Phase 3 of its COVID-19 response. All businesses can open, and local authorities can’t stop them. DeSantis also effectively shredded mask mandates by eliminating the fines some cities imposed for face-covering violations.
DeSantis called forgiving the fines (unless you’re an ex-felon trying to vote) an “act of executive grace.”
For the record, the parenthetical was mine.
Look, it’s understandable why many will support DeSantis’ action. The pandemic crushed Florida’s economy and led to horrific job loss. Cities like Orlando, heavily dependent on tourism and entertainment, are especially hurting.
Arguably, throwing them a lifeline is the right move.
The Governor didn’t stop there, though.
He said he wants NFL stadiums to move toward filling their seats, and he wants a full house for the Super Bowl next February in Tampa.
DeSantis also green-lighted live music concerts in stadiums, noting, “There’s certainly no legal prohibition from them doing fans.”
Is this a good time to mention what’s happening while Florida is rushing to reopen?
Medical experts have warned for months to expect a new wave of infections in the fall.
Well, it’s the fall.
And there is a new wave of infections.
Florida Atlantic University’s football team’s game Saturday against the University of South Florida was postponed because of the virus. All four of FAU’s games this season have been canceled or postponed.
Newsome High School’s football team in Hillsborough County had its last two games canceled because of COVID-19. Several other Florida prep teams tell similar stories.
Earlier this week, the state’s positive test rate broke 5%, a key benchmark, for the first time since Sept. 10.
The New York Times reported a 14-day spike in new cases of 17%. That’s the first increase after two months of falling rates.
We all remember what happened when DeSantis rushed to reopen bars and restaurants in June. Infections increased dramatically, and the Governor had to soon impose new restrictions.
Obviously, we all hope that doesn’t happen this time, but this move smacks of impatience and politics. That’s particularly true of the Governor’s move on masks.
There have countless photos and videos of large un-masked gatherings, often followed by reports of increased infections. That happened at Florida State University in the shadow of the Governor’s Mansion.
What makes anyone believe that won’t happen now on a much larger scale if local mask requirements are essentially toothless?
DeSantis is in a tough spot, a lot of it of his own making. We know how tied he is to President Donald Trump, and we know how the big guy feels about his whole deadly pandemic thing.
“The people call it coronavirus. It sounds like a beautiful place in Italy,” Trump said at a rally in Jacksonville.
There is nothing beautiful about coronavirus.
As for DeSantis, well, it’s simple.
He bet his entire political future against a virus that just keeps coming.