Before Monday, Gov. Ron DeSantis had not fielded questions from reporters in more than a month despite making multiple promises to give answers.
After Monday’s announcement that schools will remain open for the spring semester, DeSantis’ first question, courtesy of WFTV’s Cierra Putman, was where has he been as COVID-19 cases are on the rise in Florida.
“We’ve been doing a lot of work on preparing for the vaccine,” DeSantis said.
Nearly 1 million people have tested positive for the coronavirus in Florida as cases surge across the country.
The day after Election Day, DeSantis held a briefing in the Capitol touting Florida’s orderly election while the prolonged tallies in other key states were just beginning. At the end of that conference, he promised to take questions by the end of the week, but that assurance never materialized.
DeSantis’ next public appearance wouldn’t come for another 13 days during the Organizational Session, when new lawmakers and officers were sworn in. While crossing from the Senate to the House, the Governor promised to answer questions after the day’s ceremonies, but Capitol News Service’s Mike Vasilinda reported that he left the House chamber through the rear and took no questions.
That week, DeSantis said Monday, he met with members of the federal public-private vaccine rollout team with Operation Warp Speed in Washington. He’s the only Governor to meet with Operation Warp Speed members, he added.
Preparing for the vaccine has been a priority since the middle of the month, the Governor said, adding that he may return to the nation’s capital in the coming days.
“We’ve been working very, very hard on that, and I think it’s a game-changer,” DeSantis said. “We could potentially have, out of 40 million doses by the end of the month, that’s 20 million people, Florida’s share would be at least 1 million, maybe as much as 2 million that would be able to do it.”
Early efforts will focus on the country’s most at-risk individuals, and many will require a booster shot. Later recipients, who receive newer vaccines, might not need boosters.
“We’re not going to have unlimited the first month,” DeSantis said. “I think we pretty much will have one for every American within a few months, though.”
Reporters also asked the Governor, who has been a frequent critic of lockdowns and mandates, whether he would consider a mask mandate or other precautions amid the rise in cases. Keeping Florida open has attracted more people to the Sunshine State as Americans “vote with their feet.”
“Would you rather be 44th in cases and be open like Florida is, or would you rather be in the top 10 in cases and be locked down and have continual lockdowns far into the future?” DeSantis asked.
Florida, the third-most populous state, also has the third-largest total count of coronavirus infections. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Florida ranks 23rd in per-capita infections. Florida ranks 14th in per-capita deaths and is also behind the District of Columbia.
The Governor also lamented the continued calls for lockdowns, stemming from the initial 15 Days to Slow the Spread to buy hospitals time to prepare for the disease and lower the peak of daily infections.
“Now that there’s a vaccine on the horizon, people say even with a vaccine social distance until 2022. No way. That is just totally overboard,” DeSantis said. “It just shows you how the goal posts have moved, and I think innocent people have been caught up in this.”