By John Haughey
The Center Square
August 4, 2021
Florida won’t resume posting daily COVID-19 updates and won’t reopen state-operated COVID-19 test sites, but will defend its laws prohibiting public health business restrictions, “vaccine passports” and mask mandates, Gov. Ron DeSantis reiterated Tuesday.
The governor also said Florida won’t buckle to “media hysteria” or target unvaccinated residents who public health officials say are to blame for Florida hitting a new record Monday with 11,515 COVID-19 patients hospitalized, including 2,400 in ICUs; nearly 97% are unvaccinated.
“With all due respect, I find that deplorable to blame a victim who ends up being hospitalized,” DeSantis said. “You don’t know their story. You don’t know what happened with that.”
More than 16,000 new Florida cases were also reported Monday by the federal Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), two days after Florida reported a new case of 21,683, the most in one day since the pandemic began in March 2020 and 20% of all cases reported nationwide.
DeSantis, while urging all to be vaccinated, said he’ll continue to defend Floridians’ right to choose how to protect themselves from the virus.
“I’m sick of the judgmental stuff on some of this stuff,” he said. “Nobody’s trying to get ill here, OK? There’s people that were hermits for a-year-and-a-half, that wore six masks and did that and still contracted it, OK? So let’s just be real here, and let’s not indulge these things that somehow it’s their fault for not doing it.”
The leading Republican 2024 presidential hopeful not named Donald Trump, DeSantis strayed from his increasingly usual routine in tailoring remarks to a national conservative audience, engaging with local media in South Florida Tuesday, lambasting “media hysteria” and “quote ‘experts.”
The media “fixates on cases,” he said, and inaccurately gives the impression all Florida hospitals are swamped with COVID-19 cases.
The CDC reported the are more people are in Florida hospitals with COVID-19 now than ever. DeSantis said the media is “fearmongering.”
“Literally,” he said, “some people are having heart attacks at home because they thought that there was either not enough room in the hospital or they thought that they would get COVID and die as a result of that.”
The fact that half of the victims are under 55-years-old with an increasing number of 20-30 year-olds hospitalized sounds worse than it is, DeSantis said.
“At the end of the day, would I rather have 5,000 cases among 20 years or 500 cases among seniors? I would rather have the younger,” he said.
DeSantis, who issued an executive order Friday that allows parents to ignore mask mandates adopted by local school boards, criticized calls to require students to wear masks when they return to classes this month, such as a Florida Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ July 21 recommendation.
“These interventions have failed time-and-time again throughout this pandemic – not just in the United States, but abroad – they have not stopped the spread,” he said. “Particularly with Delta, which is even more transmissible, if it didn’t stop it before, it definitely ain’t gonna stop it now.”
Although Miami-Dade, Broward and Orange counties have issued indoor mask mandates, they don’t violate a newly-adopted state law prohibiting such measures because they don’t impose business restrictions or penalties for non-compliance.
A mask mandate for students, faculty and staff adopted by Broward County Schools last week, and one being considered in Miami-Dade County, would incur a legal challenge, the Governor’s Office confirmed last week.
With that in mind, Broward County Public Schools repealed its mask mandate and “intends to comply with the Governor’s latest Executive Order,’’ it announced Monday.