The White House issued a warning to Gov. Ron DeSantis Tuesday after Florida saw a record number of new hospitalizations related to COVID-19.
According to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 11,515 patients were hospitalized for COVID-19 in Florida in one day. Meanwhile, DeSantis continued resisting lockdowns and vaccine requirements after issuing an executive order Friday banning school mask requirements.
Since before Florida fully opened on a statewide level in September, DeSantis has railed against “draconian” orders from other states and local officials. Recent legislation and executive orders, including Friday’s order and a ban on vaccine passports, have sought to curtail government and businesses’ pandemic responses in ways DeSantis says erodes personal freedom from government overreach.
However, DeSantis’ response drew criticism from President Joe Biden during a speech Tuesday in which he called the current outbreaks “a pandemic of the unvaccinated” and some states’ responses “disappointing.” He called getting vaccinated apolitical, but called on leaders to step up and require vaccines.
He called bans against mask and vaccine mandates the “worst of all,” both of which DeSantis has issued.
“If some governors aren’t willing to do the right thing to beat this pandemic, then they should allow businesses and universities who want to do the right thing to be able to do it,” Biden said. “I say to these governors, please help. If you’re not going to help, at least get out of the way of people who are trying to do the right thing.”
When asked by name, Biden criticized DeSantis and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott for making personal decisions detrimental to public health.
“I believe the results of their decisions are not good for their constituents, and it’s clear to me and to most medical experts that the decisions being made like not allowing mask mandates in school are bad health policy,” Biden said.
Biden’s speech followed a briefing from White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki in which she similarly derided DeSantis when asked by reporters. Most Republican governors are doing the right thing, Psaki said, including advocating for vaccinations.
“But if you aren’t going to help, if you aren’t going to abide by public health guidance, then get out of the way and let people do the right thing to lead in their communities, whether they are teachers, university leaders, private sector leaders or others who are trying to save lives,” Psaki added.
Ahead of Biden’s speech, DeSantis’ press secretary called Psaki’s comments “strikingly unprofessional” in a statement to Florida Politics and suggested she “brush up on the Constitution and learn more about the role of a state Governor.” The press secretary, Christina Pushaw, pointed to DeSantis’ decision to prioritize vaccinations among the state’s older populations first despite federal advice otherwise. That advice was issued under the Trump administration.
“If he had ‘gotten out of the way’ as Psaki suggested, and let the CDC run our state, many of those lives might have been lost — as we saw with the tragic situation in New York, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, where the age-adjusted death rates are significantly higher than in Florida, despite their governors ‘abiding by public health guidance,'” Pushaw said.
DeSantis makes decisions based on data and empirical evidence, she continued. The Governor has frequently cited studies showing the detrimental health impacts of lockdowns.
“The CDC should consider doing the same, because right now, their constant flip-flopping is destroying Americans’ trust in the federal public health establishment.
Psaki also dismissed DeSantis’ repeated claims that the state is undergoing a seasonal wave as it did last summer.
“The data just doesn’t back that up,” she added.
At the conclusion of his press conference, a reporter asked Biden why he doesn’t call DeSantis.
“To say happy birthday? What?” Biden responded. “He knows the message. We had a little discussion when I was down there. He knows the message. He’s decided.”