Florida’s slow response: a ‘mini-Trump’ governor who borrowed the president’s playbook | Florida
IIn the South Florida sky, Ron DeSantis, the state governor and self-confessed student of Donald Trump (and often referred to as “mini-Trump”), pondered the morning’s developments as he looked out the airplane window. When he returned to Tallahassee after visiting a coronavirus testing site in Miami and issuing a regional home stay order for the state’s four southernmost counties, he was preparing notes for an upcoming press conference, no doubt thinking about the birth of his third Child after.
The beaches below him weren’t full, as in the permanent images that will epitomize his lethargic response to the pandemic, but enough people were out to alert the elected leader of the only “hotspot” state – those with Covid-19 – Cases over 5,000 at this point – not having any blanket restrictions imposed on staying at home.
“Were there people out there? Damn right there, ”DeSantis said of his observations at a press conference Tuesday afternoon, the day after his visit to Miami.
“No matter what you do, you’re going to have a class of people who just do what the hell they want. Not everyone believes that they have to govern themselves accordingly. “
The scenes on the beaches had clearly resonated with the governor. On Wednesday, before another 24 hours had passed, DeSantis finally issued the statewide ordinance for 21 million Florida residents – one in five over 65 – that health officials, scientists and political opponents had contested him for more than two weeks to sign.
During that time, as the number of cases and deaths increased, Florida beaches remained open, thousands flocked to church services (contrary to local regulations), and carefree seniors at the country’s fastest growing retirement home, The Villages, did what they always did: Golf.
Cruise ships with dead or infected crews waited off the coast, and passengers waited unsure whether they would be allowed to dock.
“DeSantis took a leaf out of the Trump playbook”
Meanwhile, DeSantis seemed to be fumbling while Florida burned. He continued his patchwork management of the crisis: a partial closure in some areas, interstate roadblocks to deter visitors, calls to bars and restaurants to close shutters, but above all to allow cities and counties to set their own rules . Even after the governor issued the unified order for the counties of Palm Beach, Broward, Miami-Dade and Monroe on Monday, he admitted that it contained little new. “I just got in and made them all one unit so they were all on the same page,” he said.
To no surprise, DeSantis took a leaf straight out of the Trump game book, prioritizing the economy and listening to advice from the Florida Chamber of Commerce, Associated Industries of Florida, and the State Restaurant and Accommodation Association about that of public health officials who warned of an upcoming disease tsunami, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
In the words of Oscar Braynon, a Miami Gardens senator, everything was “the stupidest shit I’ve heard in a long time.”
That Florida’s governor was in step with the news and White House stance at every step of the pandemic to this week’s abrupt volte-face was a given, at least for those who have followed the career of the former US Congressman in Tallahassee .
DeSantis – described by the lectern in the rose garden as a “great governor who knows exactly what he’s doing” – consults Trump regularly and the two share a similar ideology.
When Trump frequently and controversially referred to Covid-19 as a “Chinese virus”, DeSantis also castigated outsiders, accused New Yorkers of “sowing” the spread in Florida and sent the National Guard to airports to intercept it. When the president discussed plans to classify the boroughs by risk level and then last weekend launched the idea of quarantine for New York, DeSantis gave his full support.
And as pressure increased this week for a statewide edict to stay at home, DeSantis admitted he would take his orders direct from Washington, DC. “Whatever they recommend, we will go ahead and do that,” he said at the press conference on Tuesday. “If one of these task force people tells me we should do X, Y or Z, then of course we will consider that, but nobody has told me that before.”
“He put us in a dangerous situation”
The instruction duly came in the form of an appearance by Jerome Adams, the US surgeon general, on NBC’s Today program on Wednesday morning. When asked about DeSantis’ prevention, Adams responded by quoting Trump’s expansion of social distancing measures the night before: “My advice to America would be that these guidelines are a national order to stay at home.”
The message was unmistakable. Trump and DeSantis spoke again by phone later Wednesday morning, and in the late afternoon, when the state’s coronavirus death toll topped 100 for the first time, Florida Executive Order 20-91 was released. DeSantis said Thursday on Fox News that the U-turn about the Trump expansion “was the right thing to do”.
“We have a governor who doesn’t believe he is serving the people of Florida but who turns to the President of the United States,” said Donna Shalala, a Miami congressman who served as Secretary of Health during Bill Clinton’s tenure Reporters Thursday morning.
The delay in the publication of the order was a critical misjudgment. “He hesitated and hesitated and hesitated. He put us in a dangerous situation. Lots of people will die because our governor hesitated, ”she said.
The question now is what the consequences of the order will be and whether it is too late to significantly change expert predictions about a surge in Florida deaths. On Thursday, the Department of Health at the University of Washington still forecast cases in the state would peak in early May, but increased the projected maximum daily death toll from 136 to 175, which would result in about 7,000 deaths by mid-June .
“We are trying to plan a tsunami on the horizon that everyone hopes will miss our island, but which will hit us directly,” said Dr. Kayser Enneking, Professor of Anaesthesiology in the Medical Department of the University of Florida.
“The response we have received from the state and federal government is not based on science, but on the guts of our leaders. The number of cases in Florida is growing exponentially, but the lack of testing has impacted our ability to predict where we are in this crisis. “
State was “miserably under-prepared”
The picture is also jumbled over the medical supplies and equipment Florida deems necessary. Last Sunday, Trump insisted that the state’s wish list, including 5,000 ventilators, half a million gloves and robes each, and 2 million N95 face masks, had been sourced from federal funds. “Florida was taken care of,” the president promised. “I checked, they are very aggressive in trying to get things done and they do a very good job.”
But the following afternoon, Jared Moskowitz, who was named Director of Emergency Management in Florida by DeSantis last year, had used Twitter. He was frustrated with the failed efforts to get more masks into the state and lamented the lack of a federal allocation system.
“It feels like a Ponzi scheme,” he wrote, referring to the third-party distribution scheme for equipment manufactured by 3M. “Different dealers, represented by brokers who sell the same amount of masks, are bidding against each other. I hunt ghosts here. “
For testing purposes, Tampa mayor Jane Castor told Slate that she believed the state was “woefully under-prepared.”
“In Hillsborough County we only received 900 collection kits over a week ago. We went through this in two days. We just got a thousand and we’ll get through this in two days, ”she said.
However, she was reluctant to blame DeSantis: “It’s the first time this governor has been through it. What a fucking test that is. “
George Moraitis, leader of the Broward County’s Republican Party, was even more generous. “Governor DeSantis is under the microscope, but he’s superb,” he wrote in a comment on Sun-Sentinel. “He is leading Florida through the Covid-19 outbreak with measured, informed and effective measures to protect both the health and fundamental rights of all Floridians.”
Evan Jenne, elected co-chair of Florida’s House Democrats, told the Guardian that he would later call for a legislative selection committee to evaluate the actions of DeSantis and his administration during the crisis.
“We need to know what went right and what went wrong. I have a feeling they’ll both be long lists, ”he said. DeSantis’ decree, however, will appear firmly in the second category, according to Jenne, not least because it excludes churches and places of worship.
“It’s an executive order with holes big enough to drive around on an 18-wheeler. Mass meetings of worshipers are perfectly fine and that will not help, ”he said.
“At no point in our nation’s history has human sacrifice ever been an acceptable form of worship, and you may kill someone if you don’t get them through the hell of the respiratory system. It is not strict enough in any way, either in any form or in any form. “