Florida under Siege. DeSantis to Florida: “Drop Dead!”

Governor Rick DeSantis.

When I wrote “Florida under Siege“ published May 14, the official Florida Covid-19 death count stood at 1,898 (among 42,402 confirmed cases). Today the death score is 3,546 dead out of 146,341 cases. On May 14th, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis had just appointed his Re-Open Florida Task Force. Now we reap the harvest.

In mid-May, an excessively charitable person could have ascribed his action to stupidity. Today, as the body-count spirals out of control, it is nothing less than murder.

The June 24 Business Insider reports:

“Jones, once a top researcher who helped develop Florida’s coronavirus tracker, said in May she had been fired because she refused to meddle with data related to COVID-19 cases in the state. … Jones also said multiple Department of Health sources have told her they’ve been instructed this week to change coronavirus numbers by ‘deleting deaths and cases’ so it looks like Florida is improving ahead of July 4.”

After “another record day,” (2,783 cases), the June 25 Tallahassee Democrat reports:

“Under fire from critics who say he is letting the coronavirus outbreak get out of control, Gov. Ron DeSantis is playing down Florida’s sharp increase in new cases in recent weeks, attributing it to more testing and saying he won’t rollback reopening efforts.

“ ‘We’re not rolling back,’ the governor said during a press conference Tuesday. … ‘the negative effects of that would far exceed any gains you’re getting. You have to have society function.’”

Shades of Jaws, where the Amityville Mayor announces, “We have, in fact, caught and killed a large predator that supposedly injured some bathers. But, as you see, it’s a beautiful day, the beaches are opened, and people are having a wonderful time.”

Uh-oh: “We’re going to need a bigger boat.”

Trump Not so Light.

DeSantis had eventually given stay-at-home orders. Then the Florida tourist industry realized its own “re-opening” was going to be at risk. Per an April New York Times:

“ ‘Obviously in Florida, the tourism is totally shot right now,’ Mr. DeSantis said. The governor has been reluctant to break with Mr. Trump, according to Republican officials, after the president helped him win the Republican primary and then the governorship in 2018.”

Trump is now [in]famous for bragging to his not-so-big rally in Tulsa that he had told his Health officials to slow down the testing, to get a better Covid-19 score. In a similar vein, the April 28 Tampa Bay Times quoted DeSantis:

“ ‘Our ability to test exceeds the current demand,’ the governor boasted at a White House briefing with President Trump on Tuesday, where he brought charts and photos of Florida’s drive-through testing sites.”

Needing a scapegoat for the inescapable rising toll, DeSantis notes that much of the rise comes from migrant farmworker camps, among construction workers and among prisoners, who tend to be “asymptomatic.” Continuing:

“But while Florida’s capacity to test the public for the virus has grown significantly in the last two weeks, with the governor promising to have 18,000 tests a day at state labs, by the end of May, the governor’s pronouncements about abundant testing have clashed with reality. … State officials have claimed that Florida is third in the country for testing, with the governor’s spokesperson at one point falsely saying that was measuring per capita, citing the COVID-19 Tracking Project. In per capita testing, Florida actually ranked 22nd.”

The next wave is on the way.

The best that can be said about Florida is that it could have been worse. In the face of the deliberate paralysis of Florida’s state government, local officials took the initiative in issuing closures, distancing and mandatory wearing of masks, and Florida residents rose to the occasion, staying at home, donning masks, and distancing themselves. (This was evident every time people went to the supermarket and saw their fellow shoppers masked and distanced. It was starting to make a difference. Then in came DeSantis with his Chamber of Commerce wrecking ball, and the glorious re-opening. Now we are off to the races.

Now are on the edge of a new wave of catastrophe, and I don’t mean the virus. In some locations, there are moratoriums on evictions, but those are about to end. There were no moratoriums on rent payments. Back rents will be coming due at the end of July. Extended and expanded unemployment benefits (for those who have even been able to get their applications through the state machinery) will be coming to an end.

It’s not that the world hasn’t been learning how to bring the Pandemic more or less under control. But it requires drastic measures, including stay-at-home orders and closing certain businesses, such as the meat-packing industry or the beaches. It requires orders coming from the nation’s leadership. It requires governors taking emergency measures at the state level, not just leaving everything up to local governments piecemeal. Pandemic requires collective action.

As GPFL Co-Chair LeBeau Kpadenou said:

“This all has economic consequences. A tsunami of disease, homelessness, and shattered bank accounts will soon be wreaking havoc. And nobody, not even the Democrats, is raising a peep about that obviously impending crisis. From Wall Street’s point of view, that’s not a catastrophe, that’s a benefit. For them. That is the whip they use to force workers back to their all-too-deadly jobs, a death sentence for thousands.

“The Green Party has an Economic Bill of Rights that states that housing, healthcare and income are basic human rights. That is the kind of social support that would allow people to truly beat the Pandemic. But providing that support is ideological anathema to them. If the country started acknowledging a responsibility for the well-being of the American people, lord knows where it would end. I guess that’s what Wall Street is afraid of.”

— Jeff Roby
June 26, 2020

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