Things remain very grim in the nation’s third largest state:
Earlier this month, just as Florida neared its 20,000th covid-19 death, a bit of good cheer popped into the inboxes of 160 state lawmakers: an invitation (plus one!) to Gov. Ron DeSantis’s holiday bash at his Tallahassee mansion. No masks or social distancing required; any devotion to science or reality could be checked at the door. The event narrowly avoided superspreader status: The state senate’s president regretted his absence only hours before the soiree when a coronavirus test came back positive.
Welcome to Florida — America’s sun-drenched State of Suspended Disbelief. From the pandemic’s infancy, DeSantis has conveniently, even diabolically, airbrushed covid-19 out of public life here. The result: 1.2 million total covid-19 cases, nearly 61,000 total hospitalizations and a new seven-day case-positivity rate of 9.7 percent — all rapidly rising toward crisis levels. Even Texas, which isn’t exactly a model of coronavirus caution, has a statewide mask mandate and lower cumulative infection rate than Florida.
The Republican governor’s response to the pandemic, in other words, has been a disaster — yet he shows no signs of changing course. Today, amid the state’s third surge, Floridians and tourists stand shoulder-to-shoulder in bars and restaurants and sashay into nightclubs and strip clubs. At the same time, DeSantis continues to shrug off statewide mask and distancing orders along with any real effort at contact tracing.
It’s just unforgivable that this is happening with two safe vaccines already being distributed.