Conservative pundit blasts Florida's GOP governor for ‘risking the lives of millions’

Conservative pundit blasts Florida's GOP governor for ‘risking the lives of millions’
Governor Ron DeSantis Screengrab

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has been drawing a great deal of criticism this week for not being as proactive as other governors — for example, New York’s Andrew Cuomo, New Jersey’s Phil Murphy or Pennsylvania’s Tom Wolf — when it comes to fighting the spread of coronavirus in his state. Much of the criticism has come from Democrats, but in The Bulwark, conservative writer Amanda Carpenter slams DeSantis for putting the lives of Floridians at risk — especially those who are older.

Recently, the beaches of South Florida were packed with students on spring break, which is quite a contrast to the aggressive social distancing measures being pushed by Cuomo, Murphy or Wolf in their states. Wolf, for example, has temporarily closed down all businesses he considers non-essential in Pennsylvania, from Philadelphia to Altoona to Erie.

“Since the COVID-19 outbreak began,” Carpenter explains, “DeSantis might as well have stood in the middle of I-95 with a giant welcome sign saying, ‘C’mon in! The water’s fine!’ — all while spring breakers came down in droves, scattering among the sandy Petri dishes up and down his state’s coastline.”

Carpenter, who formerly served as communications director for Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, stresses that although DeSantis has taken some social distancing measures in Florida, he hasn’t done nearly enough.

“Compared to his fellow governors,” Carpenter observes, “DeSantis’ response has been almost carefree — especially given the vast numbers of out-of-state people funneling into Florida this time of year and the severe risks COVID-19 poses to older populations. A Tampa Bay Times analysis found that while he was among the early wave of governors to close bars and nightclubs, he was reluctant to close in-person dining at restaurants and gyms. He’s now closed public schools and banned visits to nursing homes, but unlike many other big states that have closed all non-essential services, Florida, by and large, remains open for business.”

Carpenter points out that in Florida, local officials have been closing beaches and issuing stay-at-home orders — whereas in other parts of the U.S., governors have been doing those things statewide. DeSantis, she notes, did issue an executive order requiring anyone coming into Florida from New York State, Connecticut or New Jersey to self-quarantine for two weeks — a measure Carpenter dismisses as “half-baked.”

Florida, Carpenter notes, is “home to 4.3 million Americans over the age of 65” — and Covid-19 is particularly deadly for this population.

“One would think DeSantis would be willing to try basic contagion mitigation techniques,” Carpenter writes. “Not so. Following (President Donald) Trump’s lead, he’s betting Florida doesn’t need them. Ron DeSantis isn’t merely risking his political career on the coronavirus, though; he’s risking the lives of millions of Floridians.”

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