The Florida Democratic Party hosted Congresswoman Kathy Castor and Florida Rep. Fentrice Driskell virtually ahead of President Donald Trump’s afternoon visit to Tampa.
The prominent Tampa Bay Democrats talked about coronavirus and health care, expressing concerns for Trump’s visit as a potential public health risk and dismay for the President’s response to the virus, all while advocating for Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden.
“All of this chaos has cost livelihoods, it’s costing jobs, and we know that unless we get control of the coronavirus, it’s gonna continue to wreak havoc,” Castor said. “What this all springs from, of course, is the complete and utter failure of Donald Trump to control coronavirus … He is lying to this day, and I expect him to spread more here in Tampa today.”
Castor also expressed worry over the direct impact on the Tampa Bay community, mentioning the layoffs and potential furloughs Hillsborough County teachers may face due to virus response.
“Our largest employer here in Tampa is the Hillsborough County Public School District, and they’re having very painful discussions right now about laying off teachers, furloughing teachers, other educational support personnel,” Castor said.
Driskell addressed how the virus has affected the Sunshine State, which has reported 16,449 deaths from the virus. Driskell voiced concern over the Affordable Care Act’s potential loss amid the pandemic and advocated for Biden.
“Trump has surrendered to the virus, but we need a leader who’s going to tackle this pandemic head-on — and that’s what Joe Biden will do,” Driskell said. “Not only is Donald Trump continuing to mismanage this pandemic leading to another surge in cases and lost jobs, he’s continuing to attack our health care.”
The two representatives were joined by three Tampa Bay residents who have a relationship to health care and COVID-19.
Tracey Corn, a Tampa mother of two daughters with chronic medical conditions, worries her family will not survive if the ACA is repealed. She said her children use about $80,000 to $100,000 in health care costs per year, and the ACA has allowed them to secure the coverage they need.
“Families like mine cannot survive financially the elimination of the Affordable Care Act,” she said. “If it is thrown out and our children are not afforded the protections under it, there is no way a family like mine will financially be able to survive.”
Karen Rodriguez, joined by her husband Roberto Rodriguez, spoke about her firsthand experience contracting COVID-19. After a 17-day stay in the hospital, Karen Rodriguez survived the virus, including spending a week on a ventilator.
“I believe my experience is typical of many people who have had COVID,” Karen Rodriguez said. “ I ended up in the hospital 10 days later due to severe shortness of breath. My family could not bring me into the hospital, they had to just drop me off at the sidewalk.”
Her husband chimed in, saying the couple is supporting Biden in the election because of his plan to handle the pandemic.
“We are supporting Joe Biden, because, as Rep. Driscoll says, he has a plan,” Roberto Rodriguez said.
The former Vice President will also be stopping in Tampa Thursday, hosting a “drive-in rally” in the evening, around 6:30 p.m. At the virtual forum, Castor believes having the two presidential candidates in Tampa may give residents the chance to see the difference in each’s character.
“We have a real opportunity across this community to understand the contrast between the candidates, between Donald Trump and Joe Biden. And they are stark,” Castor said. “The contrast is going to be on full display today. I don’t think there’s any question for my neighbors across the Tampa Bay area that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris — that’s the right vote for their families and for our great state.”