Central Florida Democrats condemned Gov. Ron DeSantis‘s mixed messaging on COVID-19 as the pandemic continues to rage and fill hospitals, and they urged him to recognize and address it as a crisis.
With record COVID-19 hospitalizations and new case numbers, Sens. Linda Stewart and Victor Torres of Orlando and the Orange County Democratic Executive Committee issued separate calls late Wednesday and Thursday for DeSantis to stop preventing school boards from deciding on mask usage for students, to start making strong and frequent calls for Floridians to get vaccinated and wear masks, and to stop blaming the media and others for calling attention to it.
Data provided by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show Florida’s outbreak is by far the worst in the nation in numbers of new COVID-19 cases, COVID-19 patients in hospitals, and in deaths.
“It’s rampant and it’s going to be worse next week,” Stewart said at a news conference at an Orlando COVID-19 testing site Thursday morning.
DeSantis continues to stand behind his order banning mask mandates in schools and to downplay the summer surge as a seasonal phenomenon. On Wednesday, he suggested the situation is not so bad because the fatality rate is not nearly as high as it was last summer. The Governor has repeatedly said vaccinations are safe and effective, but he has stopped short of urging them, saying people should be free to choose without undue pressure. On Wednesday he said vaccinated people are going to hospitals, too. Also Wednesday, he snapped at President Joe Biden for urging him to do more, saying he didn’t want to hear criticism from a President who has Mexico border security problems.
Democrats pleaded with DeSantis to treat this summer’s COVID-19 surge as a public health crisis, not a chance to talk about personal freedom.
“Governor DeSantis is trying to change the subject and blame others for his failed leadership by raising the immigration issue which has nothing to do with the COVID-19 crisis,” Torres said in a statement released late Thursday morning. “If the Governor is looking for someone to blame he can simply look in the mirror to see who is at fault and from this day forward, every death that occurs in Florida as a result of COVID-19 falls squarely on his shoulders.”
The Orange County Democratic Party issued a statement late Wednesday decrying DeSantis’ ban on school mask mandates and urging the Orange County School Board to challenge it.
“Ron DeSantis is failing to act like a Governor, instead choosing to act as a tyrant who is willing to sacrifice our children for political gain on his mission to play President,” Orange County Democratic Chair Wes Hodge said in a news release.
Results from a St. Pete Polls survey released Tuesday showed a sizable majority of Floridians want schools to be able to decide whether students should wear masks.
Stewart and Torres concurred.
“Please, Governor, let us do our jobs. Let us look at what is happening in our own communities,” Stewart said Thursday. “You can’t just rule from Tallahassee on one-size-fits-all.”