Gov. Ron DeSantis spoke frankly on Sunday in defense of his decision to reopen the Sunshine State amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We wanted society to function,” DeSantis said on the Life, Liberty & Levin talk show. “You can’t burn down the village in order to save it. You can’t kneecap your own society and think you’re going to successfully handle a pandemic.”
Since the onset of the pandemic, the first-term Governor has faced sharp criticism for his handling of the pandemic, particularly in regard to schools.
Florida schools and universities closed in March as the COVID-19 pandemic began to grip the state. In July, however, DeSantis and Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran ordered schools to reopen, arguing it was critical that children return to classrooms to minimize the learning gap.
The push to reopen drew a lawsuit that alleged the order violated the state’s constitutional requirement for “safe” and “secure” public education. That lawsuit was later decided in favor of the state.
“The people who say we should not have kids in school are the flat earthers of our day,” DeSantis told Levin. “There’s no scientific basis at this point to not have in-person instruction. We know that this is less dangerous for school aged kids than seasonal influenza. We also know for whatever reason that school aged kids are not significant vectors of spreading of the disease.”
He added that prolonged school closures threatened to cause “catastrophic damage to the development of a lot of our youth.”
Florida in September transitioned into Phase Three of the Governor’s plan for state recovery. The order, among other things, lifts all COVID-19 state-level restrictions and preempts local governments’ ability to close businesses and assess fines on individuals.
DeSantis told Levin that three of his COVID-19 priorities include protecting the elderly and vulnerable, managing the hospital system and maintaining a functioning society.
Florida last month also opened the door for nursing homes and other long-term care facilities to allow families to visit their loved ones, who for months had been isolated from guests.
“The odd thing is that since we’ve done that, the cases in the nursing homes have gone down dramatically,” DeSantis said on FOX. “And I think part of the reason is because I think the staff performs better when the families are able to come in.”
According to the Agency for Healthcare Administration, there are 691 licensed nursing homes in Florida representing approximately 84,448 beds.