As delta variant spreads, Florida Democrats urge Gov. DeSantis to promote vaccines

vaccine
The delta variant spreads 225% faster than the original virus.

As the highly transmissible delta variant of the novel coronavirus spreads across the United States, now accounting for more than half of new domestic COVID-19 cases, Democratic senators in Florida are calling on Gov. Ron DeSantis to urge reluctant state residents to get vaccinated.

In a joint letter Thursday, 14 Democrats from the Florida Senate exhorted DeSantis to put aside rhetoric that since March 2020 has turned a health issue into a political one and join his “fellow Republican governors who are tapping the power of their office” to revitalize vaccination efforts.

“As you well know, the virus, as well as the measures to safeguard lives, have been highly politicized, with beliefs about both in many cases breaking down along party lines,” the letter from the Senate Democratic Office said. “Recent polling suggests those most reluctant to vaccinate identify themselves as Republicans, even though the pioneering vaccines were developed and approved for emergency use in record time under a Republican presidential administration.”

The delta variant of COVID-19 spreads roughly 225% faster than the original version of the virus, and as of this week it comprised nearly 52% of new U.S. cases.

Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of the World Health Organization’s health emergencies program, has called delta the “fastest and fittest” COVID-19 variant so far and that it will “pick off” those vulnerable to its symptoms, particularly in areas where vaccination rates remain low.

Fortunately, studies have so far shown that vaccines now in use provide good protection against the variant, and most scientists agree that the risk to fully vaccinated people is minimal.

Shortly after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last month updated delta from a variant of interest to a variant of concern, DeSantis downplayed its potential impact here, pointing to a U.K. study that showed vaccines are less effective against symptomatic delta infections but still significantly reduce hospitalizations.

“There’s been a lot of talk about variants leading up to this,” he said. “I think it gets put out there in ways designed to frighten people.”

DeSantis said then that he doubted infections in Florida would rise “anywhere like (they) did last summer” because of how many residents have been vaccinated.

About 11.66 million Floridians (54% of the state population) have received at least one vaccine dose, and nearly 10 million (46%) have been fully vaccinated, according to nonprofit data aggregator USAFacts.org.

Many Floridians, the letter said, continue to look to DeSantis for guidance and leadership and could still be convinced to inoculate themselves against the virus. The letter noted other governors, including Utah’s Spencer Cox, Arkansas’ Asa Hutchinson and West Virginia’s Jim Justice, “have recognized their unique ability to stem the disease’s course and safeguard residents’ health” through bipartisan initiatives to overcome vaccine hesitancy.

“For the health and safety of Floridians and visitors alike,” the letter said, “you can and must do the same for our great state.”

Even while imploring DeSantis to take action, the senators — Loranne Ausley, Lori Berman, Lauren Book, Randolph Bracy III, Janet Cruz, Gary Farmer, Shervin Jones, Jason Pizzo, Tina Polsky, Bobby Powell, Linda Stewart, Annette Taddeo, Perry Thurston, and Victor Torres — still took advantage of an opportunity to swipe at the Governor when citing his announcement in April that he had gotten the shot.

Sens. Darryl Rouson and Audrey Gibson did not co-sign the letter.

“You personally announced that you had received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, even though, unlike other state officials, the injection was administered privately,” the letter said.

Discussing delta last month, DeSantis advised unvaccinated Florida residents who are either worried about the variant or are especially at risk of adverse effects to reconsider their positions on getting the vaccine.

“The best thing you can do, particularly if you haven’t gotten the vaccine, particularly if you have any health problems, is to get a shot,” he said.

Jesse Scheckner

Jesse Scheckner has covered South Florida with a focus on Miami-Dade County since 2012. His work has been recognized by the Hearst Foundation, Society of Professional Journalists, Florida Society of News Editors, Florida MMA Awards and Miami New Times. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @JesseScheckner.


3 comments

  • Jmjtusa

    July 10, 2021 at 2:55 am

    … Wow, you mean that demon-o-crats really aren’t “pro-choice?”

  • Bob Gross

    July 10, 2021 at 6:28 am

    We just went from a June 11 report of just over 10,000 cases for that week, and a positivity rate of 3.3%, to over 25,000 cases this past week for a July 2 report and a positivity rate of 7.8%….with no state in the US even close. Not ONE WORD out of the Governor’s office, as he continues to do absolutely NOTHING to battle this disease, and precautions have been thrown to the wind. How many daily cases……5000…..10,000……before he even thinks there’s a problem???

  • John

    July 10, 2021 at 3:48 pm

    All sheep must be vaxed.

Comments are closed.


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