As Covid Surges in Florida, DeSantis Refuses to Change Course

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A microorganism spike connected to the Delta variant has led to a grounds fig of Covid-19 hospitalizations successful Florida. Gov. Ron DeSantis has not altered his approach, for amended oregon worse.

Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida has been unyielding successful  his attack  to the pandemic.
Credit...Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Patricia Mazzei

Aug. 6, 2021, 6:38 p.m. ET

MIAMI — Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida snapped this week astatine a newsman who asked if masks mightiness assistance support children harmless successful a authorities that present has more Covid-19 hospitalizations, including for pediatric patients, than anyplace other successful the nation.

He blamed President Biden’s purported nonaccomplishment to power the dispersed of the microorganism crossed the borderline aft the president suggested that governors similar Mr. DeSantis should either “help” combat the coronavirus oregon “get retired of the way.”

And helium touted a caller authorities rule, adopted connected Friday, that volition antagonistic section schoolhouse disguise mandates by allowing parents to petition backstage schoolhouse vouchers if they consciousness that the requirements magnitude to “harassment.”

Mr. DeSantis has been unyielding successful his attack to the pandemic, refusing to alteration people oregon enforce restrictions contempt uncontrolled dispersed and spiking hospitalizations — an attack that forced him to undertake the biggest hazard of his rising governmental career.

The politician reopened his state’s system past outpouring and kept it that way, defying coronavirus surges that filled hospitals, and past celebrated arsenic a statewide vaccination run took clasp and life successful Florida began to look normal.

Now Mr. DeSantis is gambling again. A caller microorganism spike has led to a grounds fig of Covid-19 hospitalizations that person undone immoderate of Florida’s economical and nationalist wellness gains and again raised the stakes for Mr. DeSantis.

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Credit...Scott McIntyre for The New York Times

If the latest surge overwhelms hospitals, leaving doctors and nurses incapable to decently attraction for the younger, astir wholly unvaccinated radical packing exigency rooms and intensive attraction units, Mr. DeSantis’s perch arsenic a Republican Party front-runner with higher aspirations could beryllium successful superior trouble.

If, however, Florida comes done different microorganism highest with some its infirmary strategy and system intact, Mr. DeSantis’s crippled of chickenhearted with the deadly pandemic could go a exemplary for however to coexist with a microorganism that is improbable to ever afloat vanish.

Mr. DeSantis successfully sued the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention implicit its request that cruise vessel passengers beryllium vaccinated, though immoderate of the cruise lines were keeping the mandate anyway. He opposes mandating vaccines for infirmary workers, saying that would effect successful worsening unit shortages.

“We tin either person a escaped society, oregon we tin person a biomedical information state,” Mr. DeSantis said this week successful Panama City, Fla. “And I tin archer you: Florida, we’re a escaped state. People are going to beryllium escaped to take to marque their ain decisions.”

Florida has the country’s highest hospitalization complaint and second-highest complaint of caller cases, next to Louisiana. Infection levels person been rising successful each state, with particularly alarming rates successful the South. Many of those governors person besides been reluctant to enforce caller restrictions oregon necessitate masks.

Nationally, hospitalizations and deaths stay good beneath past peaks, successful portion due to the fact that 80 percent of Americans property 65 and older are afloat vaccinated. Deaths successful Florida person truthful acold remained overmuch little than past peaks, but mortality information tin lag cases and hospitalizations by weeks.

“Nobody knows wherever this is going to end,” said Dr. Marissa J. Levine, the manager of the Center for Leadership successful Public Health Practice astatine the University of South Florida. “The attack has astir been 1 of denial that this is simply a large deal.”

Mr. DeSantis has argued that prioritizing vaccinations for older people, arsenic his medication did, has reduced the decease toll. So has the availability of treatments for immoderate patients, similar monoclonal antibodies, which Mr. DeSantis spent portion of this week promoting. The politician has consistently urged Floridians to get vaccinated, though helium nary longer holds nationalist events astatine vaccination sites arsenic helium did earlier this year.

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Credit...Scott McIntyre for The New York Times

About 49 percent of Florida residents are afloat vaccinated and astir 59 percent person received astatine slightest 1 dose, rates that are astir successful enactment with the nationalist mean and acold amended than astir different Southern states.

Florida ne'er instituted a statewide disguise mandate. Mayors imposed section ones a twelvemonth ago; a caller authorities instrumentality prohibits them now, but immoderate municipalities person reinstated disguise rules successful authorities buildings and mandated vaccines for their employees. The authorities of exigency that Mr. DeSantis initially declared to woody with the pandemic expired successful precocious June, and helium has declined calls to bring it back, though doing truthful could marque it easier for hospitals to prosecute much doctors and nurses.

In short, Mr. DeSantis said, beingness volition spell connected adjacent arsenic the pandemic does, too.

“We knew this is thing that you’re going to person to unrecorded with,” Mr. DeSantis said connected Friday, articulating a sentiment that galore nationalist officials are opening to express, publically and privately, arsenic the pandemic powers done its 2nd summer.

Mr. DeSantis’s absorption to caller mandates, adjacent for children returning to schoolhouse who are excessively young to get vaccinated, prompted a testy backmost and distant this week with Mr. Biden. The politician accused the president of “helping facilitate” the microorganism dispersed by not securing the U.S. borderline with Mexico. “Until you bash that, I don’t privation to perceive a blip astir Covid from you,” Mr. DeSantis said.

Asked astir Mr. DeSantis again, Mr. Biden quipped: “Governor who?”

Democrats person assailed the governor, calling him irresponsible and accusing him of trying to displacement blasted implicit the handling of the pandemic. Last summer’s surge wounded Mr. DeSantis successful nationalist sentiment polls, though his support standing mostly rebounded afterward.

Mr. DeSantis, who faces re-election adjacent year, has utilized the tit for tat with the president successful run fund-raising pitches. (He fund-raised successful Michigan connected Monday, The Detroit News reported.) Later, helium decried “media hysteria” implicit the rising Covid lawsuit numbers and downplayed the dire concern successful hospitals — adjacent arsenic the Florida Hospital Association warned astir overcrowding arsenic a effect of the virus.

“Hospitals are eliminating close present immoderate process services that tin beryllium scheduled and postponed that are not emergent,” said Mary Mayhew, the association’s president and main executive. She antecedently worked arsenic a subordinate of Mr. DeSantis’s medication overseeing nursing homes. “They’re doing that successful bid to redeploy staff” to Covid-19 cases, she said.

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Credit...Chandan Khanna/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Of peculiar interest has been the Memorial Healthcare System successful Broward County, northbound of Miami. This week, it had much than 1,600 patients, a record, astir 600 of them with Covid-19. The infirmary strategy usually does not attraction for much than 1,400 patients astatine a time.

The crush of sick radical forced Memorial hospitals to marque country for beds successful a cafeteria, a league halfway and an auditorium, Dr. Marc L. Napp, the main aesculapian officer, said successful a quality conference. “So far, I’m blessed to accidental that we’ve been capable to supply that care, but it’s not without a accent connected the system,” helium said.

Four conventions person already canceled their plans to conscionable successful Orlando, Mayor Jerry Demings of Orange County said, an economical interaction of astir $44 million.

The reports astir overwhelmed hospitals and the much contagious Delta variant person astatine slightest moved much radical to get vaccinated, according to authorities and section officials. In Jacksonville, the portion deed hardest by the latest surge, Berlinda Gatlin, 55, got her archetypal dose connected Thursday, disquieted that 1 of her 3 children could bring the microorganism location erstwhile they commencement schoolhouse adjacent week.

“I’m not blessed with the governor,” she said astir Mr. DeSantis’s absorption to masks successful schools.

Gabriel Molina, 30, said helium waited for others successful his household to get vaccinated first. Once helium saw they experienced nary broadside effects, helium got the changeable himself, truthful that helium would little the hazard of getting his young lad sick.

“I person a 3-year-old lad I’m acrophobic about,” helium said.

He was besides acrophobic by different people’s increasing antipathy toward masks and fears present that the microorganism is not going away.

“I deliberation this is going to beryllium a caller normal,” helium said.

Andrew Pantazi and Mitch Smith contributed reporting.

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