As of this writing, we are hovering at just under 20,000 lives lost, although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and health experts estimate that the actual number of deaths is much higher.
As a native Floridian and attorney who has fought for equal justice and consumer protection my whole life, I have gone to great lengths to draw attention to how badly Gov. Ron DeSantis has mishandled this health crisis going as far as to sue him to issue a temporary stay-at-home and beach closure order. I even dressed as the Grim Reaper visiting Florida beaches to draw statewide attention to the consequences to people not protecting themselves in crowds.
Florida’s response to COVID-19 buck stops with Gov. DeSantis and from Day One, his response has been inadequate at best and outright murderous at worst. ‘
From his slow initial response in the spring, which allowed thousands to flock to our beaches over Spring Break, to his eradication of all COVID-19 safety restrictions in September, to his prioritization of the advice of crackpot conspiracy theorists and snake oil salesmen pushing questionable virus therapies over the advice of scientists, the Governor has created a perfect storm of uncontrolled viral spread.
Luckily, there are some bright spots on the horizon. President-elect Joe Biden has stepped up to show Florida and the entire country what real leadership looks like. He has introduced a proactive 7-point plan and formed a Coronavirus Task Force which is chock-full of doctors, scientists and epidemiologists — all of the professionals Gov. DeSantis ignores.
But what has been most striking is the humanity with which the President-elect has approached this pandemic. He has listened with compassion to health care workers, first-responders and others on the front lines and he has shown that he understands the human toll of this virus: that lives lost to COVID are not simply statistics — they are our co-workers, our neighbors, our friends, and our family members. This stands in stark contrast to Gov. DeSantis, whose increasingly rare public appearances are marked by defiance and combativeness.
Why hasn’t the Governor acted to protect Floridians? Well, look no further than his politics. It’s no secret that Gov. DeSantis and President Donald Trump, who has made clear his disdain for both mask mandates and shutdowns, have long shared a close relationship. The Governor’s devotion to the President and his misguided concept of economic recovery — a recovery that will never happen fully until we get this pandemic under control — have not only hurt Floridians but also made our state look foolish.
Gov. DeSantis would have to be blind not to see that Floridians are suffering: over 1,000,000 COVID-19 cases and nearly 20,000 deaths and thousands hospitalized, many of them on ventilators and clinging to their lives. More than 650,000 Floridians unemployed, some of whom will not be celebrating the holidays at home this year because they are being evicted.
All of this draws me to one simple conclusion: Gov. DeSantis doesn’t care about the lives of Floridians. They deserve so much more from their Governor than this twisted, real-life version of The Hunger Games: Pandemic Edition.
Daniel Uhlfelder is a Walton County attorney who has worked in both the White House and U.S. Congress. During the past year, he has gained international attention by dressing as the Grim Reaper to call attention to Gov. DeSantis’ COVID-19 policies.