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Tue Aug 16, 2022, 11:13 AM

Keeping score with Ron DeSantis

Last edited Tue Aug 30, 2022, 09:09 PM - Edit history (1)

“You are what your record says you are.”- Bill Parcells

Ron DeSantis kicked off his reelection campaign with a tv commercial extolling his leadership during the pandemic. In his telling, his policies optimized both public health and “freedom.” A review of Florida's Covid response paints a less flattering picture, replete with politically motivated bumbling.

Florida, along with the rest of the nation, watched in shock and horror as Covid-19 overwhelmed hospitals in the New York metropolitan area in the Spring of 2020. The only positive outcome from that harsh experience was that the rest of the country had several weeks to watch and learn. Meanwhile, many of the headlines in Florida featured a state unemployment system that staggered and collapsed under the burden of 1.5 million unemployment claims in the month of April. In fairness to DeSantis, the online claims system was still festooned with the drool of Florida’s former governor, Rick Scott. DeSantis would later remark: “the failed CONNECT system was built with ‘roadblocks’ meant to yield the ‘least number of claims being paid out possible.”

Seeking better optics, DeSantis tried switching the focus to the ongoing carnage up north. The governor took the first of many premature victory laps and defined who his opponents were in a news conference on May 20. He compared Florida to New York and boasted “we have a lower death rate than the Acela corridor, DC, everyone up there…We’ve succeeded and I think that people just don’t want to recognize that.” Florida’s first Covid surge started just weeks later.

DeSantis briefly diverted attention from the burgeoning pandemic and the state’s cruel and dysfunctional unemployment system by procuring one million doses of hydroxychloroquine, a drug proven effective against malaria, lupus, and other diseases. Florida hospitals declined to administer it, however, and by July the National Institute of Health had abandoned clinical trials using the drug for Covid patients. This was the first of several flirtations of the DeSantis administration with unproven treatments and misleading information. In August, in the middle of the surge, the governor was touring the state with radiologist Dr. Scott Atlas, of “herd immunity” fame, not long after he was hounded out of the White House.

As the case counts came down modestly, DeSantis suggested that students at state colleges needed a “bill of rights” to protect them from sanctions for partying in violation of the schools’ current social distancing policies. The next day, September 25, 2020, he issued an executive order that allowed bars and restaurants to open at full capacity. DeSantis’ order also stopped cities and counties from fining people for not wearing mandated face coverings and suspended all fines from previous violations. Under DeSantis, Florida would always be the leader in throwing caution to the winds in the name of “freedom”- even if that freedom was the inconsequential freedom to party. Of course, that freedom also was not free. The cost was paid by all the other citizens of Florida in the form of additional risk, with or without their knowledge or consent.

The premature celebration of a return to normalcy was immediately followed by the second Covid surge. The lone bright spot was the rapid increase in the availability of vaccines. Infections, hospitalizations, and deaths retreated in the Spring. Determined to burnish his image as Covid’s swashbuckling antagonist, DeSantis proclaimed on May 3, 2021, that “we are no longer in a state of emergency” and suspended all local Covid ordinances, including mask mandates, and banned businesses from requiring vaccine passports. The practical effect of the executive order was to implement a law already passed by the legislature two months early and give the governor an extra turn in the spotlight. By the middle of the next month, the Delta variant settled into Florida for the third and deadliest surge yet.

As the cases, hospitalizations and deaths rocketed to new heights, DeSantis seemed more concerned about saving his brand than his citizens. On July 30, 2021, he issued another executive order- this one banning mask mandates in schools. During the school year, when some school districts in Democratic-leaning districts implemented mask mandates anyway, DeSantis would respond by pulling state funding from those districts. Looking back on the Delta surge, on September 10 the Washington Post reported: “About 54,000 more people have died of COVID-19 [nationally] since June 2021. Nearly 1 in 5 of those deaths have occurred in Florida – 18% of the deaths come from a state that makes up about 6% of the country’s population. What’s more, over the course of the surge, the percentage of deaths occurring in Florida has been increasing.”

Undiscouraged by recent experience, DeSantis signed his “Freedom Agenda” into law on November 18 following a special legislative session he called just for that purpose. The new laws prohibited Florida businesses from complying with recent vaccine mandates originating from the White House. In a characteristically petty gesture, DeSantis scheduled the bill-signing ceremony in Brandon, Florida. Earlier in the year, DeSantis’ online campaign store started selling beverage coozies labelled “Don’t Fauci my Florida.” The store also sells tee shirts with a picture of the governor toasting with a beer and saying “How the hell am I going to be able to drink a beer with a mask on?”

While Delta was raging unchecked that August, the federal government started distributing doses of the Regeneron monoclonal antibody treatment for Covid infections. Offering “free” treatment (actual cost $2,100- paid for by the federal government), DeSantis opened treatment centers at breakneck speed across the state and used each opening as a photo op. In his appearances, he touted “Early Treatment” and went silent on the value of vaccination. In January, DeSantis refused to say if he personally had received a booster shot.

Sadly, it soon became apparent that the Regeneron treatment was ineffective against the newly emerging Omicron variant. By January 15, Omicron represented 99% of all cases and on January 24, 2022, the FDA suspended the use of the current Eli Lilly and Regeneron monoclonal antibodies. DeSantis’ immediate response was to accuse the Biden administration of “withholding the treatments without evidence” and threatening to sue. At the same time, the company confirmed that the current antibodies were no longer effective. DeSantis quietly dropped the subject.

The Omicron wave has been prolonged at a lower level by the emergence of more transmissible sub-variants and variants with increased ability to evade immunity from prior infection and vaccines. Florida continues to have more avoidable infections and deaths than most states due in part to DeSantis having taken away the ability of local jurisdictions to use mitigation measures when appropriate. The anti-mandate culture that DeSantis fertilized is another handicap for maintaining public health. DeSantis’ “freedom agenda” is just a wink and a nod to the anti-mask, anti-vax, Stop the Steal, MAGA voters he hopes can propel him through the presidential primaries. A future historian could be tempted to title the chapter on Florida’s pandemic response “Mutating Virus Meets Mutating Mass Psychoses.”

In June, Florida’s Auditor General announced that an investigation found that Florida undercounted its Covid death toll by more than 3,000 in 2020. This too followed a sad but familiar pattern. Providing Covid statistics always served an additional function for DeSantis. Reporting the numbers was not just a civic duty and transparent guide for public policy- it was also a political tool. It was score keeping. Cases, hospitalizations, and especially deaths, were entries in the Error column and would be disputed, minimized, or require a change of subject. When Rebekah Jones disputed Florida’s method of counting cases, she was fired and later arrested in front of her children. Florida was the first state to stop providing daily pandemic updates. In October of 2020, just weeks before the election, there was an unexplained lag in reporting cases that created a convenient, temporary illusion of substantial progress in Florida’s pandemic management.

By the middle of this August, Florida passed rival New York in Covid deaths per capita during the pandemic, placing it ahead of only 13 states and behind the other 36. That’s DeSantis’ record. Read it and weep.

The stats: https://www.statista.com/statistics/1109011/coronavirus-covid19-death-rates-us-by-state/

The “Freedom Agenda” has never been about good science or responsible public health decisions. It has always been about personal ambition. Florida’s governor is poised to take Trump’s torch when it comes to conning the rubes. The two share similarities- both are thin-skinned and devoid of empathy and humor. The difference is that Trump’s pandering is maniacal while DeSantis’ seems calculated. What’s new is pandering in complete sentences. For the disciple looking to surpass the master, climbing over dead bodies is just another obstacle on the path to a bigger and better future for Ron DeSantis.




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Reply Keeping score with Ron DeSantis (Original post)
hay rick Aug 2022 OP
benfranklin1776 Aug 2022 #1
hay rick Aug 2022 #3
RAB910 Aug 2022 #2
hay rick Aug 2022 #4

Response to hay rick (Original post)

Tue Aug 16, 2022, 11:24 AM

1. Excellent and highly informative cataloguing of DeathSantis's lethally demagogic record

Thank you for posting. These deadly numbers underscore the sheer psychopathology of this twisted corporate tool. Deaths, especially of the most vulnerable, mean nothing to him which gives us a chilling preview of the carnage he would wreak, if he ever got into the Oval Office, and emphasizes why he must be defeated soundly.

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Response to benfranklin1776 (Reply #1)

Tue Aug 16, 2022, 12:16 PM

3. Thank you.

There is a lot more that I left out as I was already straying into TL;DNR territory. Dr. Ladapo comes to mind. It frustrates me that this story is not being covered in the news. I expect DeSantis will continue to take his Covid victory laps without a peep of contradiction from the media.

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Response to hay rick (Original post)

Tue Aug 16, 2022, 11:52 AM

2. Nazi DeSantis killed thousands of Americans in his state

he should be in jail, not running for office

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Response to RAB910 (Reply #2)

Tue Aug 16, 2022, 05:38 PM

4. True.

The problem is nobody can say for sure exactly which individuals in the thousands of excess deaths were due to his negligent and self-serving policies. The administration of justice in our country is a mechanical process involving finger prints and videotape. Moral responsibility is a neglected factor.

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