Trio of doctors condemn Donald Trump, Ron DeSantis COVID-19 efforts

covid numbers
Doctors charge Trump, DeSantis, with forcing herd immunity.

A trio of Florida physicians speaking for the Committee to Protect Medicare accused President Donald Trump and Gov. Ron DeSantis of pursuing a herd immunity strategy and denounced it Wednesday as irresponsible, frustrating, and heartbreaking.

“It’s beyond frustrating … to let our state be taken over by a preventable virus,” Dr. Bernard Ashby, a Miami cardiologist and Florida state lead for the Committee to Protect Medicare, told reporters during a Zoom press briefing Thursday.

Though Trump and DeSantis both have said they are not pursuing herd immunity, some of Trump’s advisers have suggested it as a route. And White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows‘ comment Sunday that the pandemic will not be controlled lent credence.

The physicians speaking to reporters Wednesday included Ashby, Jacksonville internist Dr. Jennifer Cowart, and Gainesville infectious disease specialist Dr. Frederick Southwick, author of the textbook “Infectious Disease: A Clinical Short Course.”

They contended that Trump’s and DeSantis’ actions, opening everything from schools to sports stadiums and signaling that normalcy has returned even as the virus resurges, amounts to surrender to herd immunity, whether they want to say so or not.

In the past seven days, through Wednesday, Florida has averaged about 3,935 new COVID-19 cases reported each day. That’s up by nearly 1,000 cases a day, compared with the previous week’s average of 2,940. As Southwick pointed out, hospitalization trends tend to lag about two weeks behind case trends. And death trends tend to lag another week or two behind hospitalization trends.

Herd immunity will require a dramatic rise in cases that will overwhelm hospitals and lead to many thousands of needless deaths in Florida, they each said.

“It is wrong-headed, and 100% of epidemiologists and infectious disease experts strongly, I mean strongly, oppose this approach,” Southwick said.

Replied DeSantis’ spokesman Fred Piccolo: “This is just sad. They told us the initial wave would inundate and overwhelm hospitals. Governor DeSantis’ quick action to protect the elderly made that prediction untrue. 75+ days of positivity rates bellow 10%. Schools open and thriving an even the NY Times and Washington Post agree. No massive spike going into phase III. Sports not seeing massive outbreaks. They can produce three doctors, two of which aren’t epidemiologists. We can produce thousands of doctors who disagree with these ridiculous assessments. The data is clear and the Governor follows the data. Mortality rate is very low, positivity rates are low, hospitalizations are low, COVID-like illness ER visits are low, testing is in the millions, assisted living facilities are open and operating safely, and the people can earn a living and feed their families. If all of that is wrong, then I’d hate to see their solution.”

The trio urged DeSantis to slow down or reverse some of his reopening measures and to immediately start making mask-wearing and other precautions a higher priority, especially in his own behavior. They urged Trump to stop holding “super-spreader” events.

“My colleagues across the state of Florida are joining today because we’re fed up with Donald Trump’s and Gov. Ron DeSantis’ handling of the COVID-19 pandemic as our state sees what could be another major surge,” Ashby said. “It’s deja vu all over again. It feels like we’re right back to where we were at the start of the summer. As a physician, it is not a good feeling.”

“By following Trump’s lead and refusing to follow the science, Gov. DeSantis is once again making the pandemic worse in our already hard-hit state,” Cowart said. “You don’t have to be a physician to think that with nearly 17,000 of our fellow Floridians that have died, our Governor should be taking every step possible to save more lives and livelihoods. Yet he’s reopened business without proper safety precautions, tied the hands of local governments, we have not enacted a state mask mandate, and, like Trump, has leaned into the dangerous, misunderstood concept of herd immunity as his excuse for having a statewide plan.”

Scott Powers

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at [email protected]


3 comments

  • S B ANTHONY

    October 28, 2020 at 3:09 pm

    The country condemns trump and desantis (excluding TWD who drink the Kool Aid).

  • LINDIESUE

    October 28, 2020 at 3:39 pm

    The therapeutic Trump was given when at Walter Reed did not exist prior to COVID. It exists as a result of the President’s efforts to expedite (Operation Warp Speed) therapeutics, vaccines, ventilators, masks, tests and on (there were none as a result of the Obama/Biden Administration who let the stockpile dwindle.) Under Obama/Biden, over 60,000,000 Americans were infected with H1N1. Per Biden’s Chief of Staff: The snafu was the first of many scrambles and setbacks by the Obama administration in its initial response to the swine flu. POLITICO interviewed almost two dozen people, including administration officials, members of Congress and outsiders who contended with the administration’s response, and they described a litany of sadly familiar obstacles: vaccine shortfalls, fights over funding and sometimes contradictory messaging.”
    “It is purely a fortuity that this isn’t one of the great mass casualty events in American history,” Ron Klain, who was Biden’s chief of staff at the time, said of H1N1 in 2019. “It had nothing to do with us doing anything right. It just had to do with luck.”
    The same therapeutic that helped Trump he is now working on expediting its availability to the public.
    In his February 4th State of the Union address, President Trump pledged to “take all necessary steps to safeguard our citizens from the virus.” Nancy Pelosi then ripped up the Address in front of the world. The President: Took early action to cut off travel from China and eventually Europe, which saved millions of lives; Built the world’s leading testing system from nothing (more than 65 million); Enacted mitigation measures to slow the spread; Mobilized public and private sectors to secure needed supplies; Took action to protect vulnerable Americans; Launched effort to deliver a vaccine and therapeutics in record time; Provided support to workers and businesses; Paved way for reopening to get America working again; Surged resources to hot spots as they arose.
    In order to secure the supplies (PPE/ Masks/ventilators/handsanitizer/testing supplies urging private companies to produce them) needed to confront the surge in coronavirus we faced, President Trump led the largest mobilization of public and private sector resources since WWII.President Trump has acted under the Defense Production Act more than 30 times to ensure we have the supplies we need. When we faced a potentially catastrophic shortage of ventilators, President Trump took action to produce 100,000 ventilators and ensure no patient who needs one goes without a ventilator. President Trump moved swiftly to protect vulnerable communities.The Administration is investing approximately $2 billion in community health centers, helping their 28 million patients in medically underserved areas receive the care and testing they need.
    Early in the fight against the virus, President Trump launched a historic effort to develop a vaccine and therapeutics in record time.
    President Trump responded to the devastating toll the virus took on our businesses and workers and secured unprecedented financial support – through PPP, stimulus payments, tax relief to workers, unemployment benefits, student debt relief, prevented evictions or foreclosure.The President has provided support to states facing new emergences of the virus, including surging testing sites, deploying medical personnel, and advising on mitigation strategies.

  • Sonja Fitch

    October 28, 2020 at 5:39 pm

    Trump and Desantis are willingly using and abusing our children, elderly and people in communal settings to apply the Nazi Herd immunity! Vote Democrat up and down ballot for the common good!

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