The Florida Republican governor’s laissez-faire approach to Covid-19 – and the relatively low number of cases and deaths in such a large and elderly state – has turned him into a celebrity in the same circles where Donald Trump is a secular saint.
Except, suddenly, the Florida numbers do not look so good with the Delta variant of the coronavirus punishing the state.
“The state accounts for one in five new infections in the United States and recorded 73,181 cases in the past week, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Florida recorded 341 cases per 100,000 residents over the past week, just behind Louisiana. Florida’s weekly total of new cases more than quadrupled between July 1 and July 22, reaching its highest level since mid-January. “
“We need our children to be able to be children,” DeSantis said late last week. “We need them to be able to breathe. It is terribly uncomfortable for them to do so. “
DeSantis has gone much more public with calls for unvaccinated Floridians to get vaccinated. “If you are vaccinated, fully vaccinated, the risk of you becoming seriously ill or dying from COVID is effectively zero,” he said at a press conference. “These vaccines save lives. “
This public service message, however, directly ended up in DeSantis’ position as heir to the Trump coalition in 2024. His campaign website sold beverage cooling sleeves that read “DON’T FAUCI MY FLORIDA ”, a reference to the science advice on the pandemic offered by Dr Anthony Fauci.
Depending on what you think of DeSantis, he has been good or lucky so far during the pandemic. But the growing number of cases in Florida – coupled with the increased transmissibility of the Delta variant – poses a challenge it has yet to face.
DeSantis appears to face a clear challenge in the near future: to do what’s right for the state of Florida or to continue playing to its ambitions for 2024 by refusing to recognize that mitigation practices – masks, social distancing, etc. – are necessary and attacking people like Fauci.
Point: Considering the number of cases in Florida, things may get worse before they get better. Which means this is a major moment for DeSantis.