Saying Gov. Ron DeSantis‘ policies put Floridians at risk, members of the Democratic Congressional Delegation on Wednesday called on businesses, local governments, and individuals to do what they can to reverse the state’s worsening COVID-19 crisis.
U.S. Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Charlie Crist, Ted Deutch, Lois Frankel, and Darren Soto said DeSantis is playing to the national, right-wing base. During a news conference via Zoom Wednesday, they decried DeSantis as a “threat to public health” and said he strives to follow President Donald Trump’s COVID-19 playbook.
The delegation cited a number of DeSantis’ policies, including his fight against vaccine requirements for the cruise industry, his refusal to have the state Health Department start releasing daily COVID-19 data again, the campaign against school boards enacting mandatory student masks, and a decided deficit in convincing vaccine-resistant communities to roll up their sleeves.
“When it comes to COVID, Florida still remains one of the most dangerous and least-prepared places to be in America and no one bears more responsibility for that than Gov. DeSantis,” Wasserman Schultz said. “… He is a public health threat.”
The Democrats agreed DeSantis is trying to appeal to his national, conservative base for an eventual run for President in 2024. They cited his travels outside Florida, such as trips to Utah, Pennsylvania and the U.S. southern border, during what Crist called, “the worst crises we’ve ever faced in our history.”
“It’s appalling to see,” said Crist, who is leaving Congress to run against DeSantis. “That kind of rank ambition is not what we need from the leader of our state.”
But Christina Pushaw, the Governor’s press secretary, pushed back against the contention that DeSantis is at fault for the rising number of hospitalizations that have continued to set records over the past two weeks. She said it’s the Democrats who are politicizing the recent surge. The Governor has always made data-driven decisions when it comes to deciding what to do about COVID-19, she said. The administration has contended that requiring vaccinations or masks at school interferes with personal liberty and parents’ rights.
“We suggest these politicians use their platform more responsibly, to inform their constituents and the broader public of lifesaving monoclonal antibody treatments that are available free of charge to high-risk COVID patients in Florida,” Pushaw said.
Democrats panned DeSantis’ promotion of the therapy, however, as ineffective compared to policies aimed at preventing infection, namely vaccinations and face mask use. Frankel called on businesses to require their employees to vaccinate. She also urged everyone to mask up, keep a social distance and get vaccinated.
“Vaccination is not a punishment,” Frankel said. “… Vaccinated workers have a right to work in safe places. Children have no choice but to depend on responsible adults. Neither federal nor Florida law prohibits employees from requiring vaccination.”
Wasserman Schultz urged people to circulate publicly only when they have to, and, unlike DeSantis, follow the science.
“This is absolutely about winning a Republican Primary in 2024 and trying to, you know, be the Trumpian candidate in the field,” she said. “The only audience (DeSantis) cares about are the audience that is most responsive to the Trumpian policies.”