There should be a special place in hell — or potentially in prison — for politicians who put their political goals ahead of the health and safety of our children. That is exactly what Gov. Ron DeSantis is doing in Florida with the executive order he signed last Friday barring school districts from mandating that students and school employees wear masks during the spike in Covid cases.
Beyond his potentially deadly decision about Florida schools, DeSantis poses a different, but familiar, danger to our country. As Democratic state Rep. Anna Eskamani said Wednesday on my SiriusXM show, DeSantis is “basically Trump 2.0.”
Former President Donald Trump is a clear and present danger to our nation — at least, if you support our democratic republic. But DeSantis is more dangerous.
Yes, former President Donald Trump is a clear and present danger to our nation — at least, if you support our democratic republic. But DeSantis is more dangerous.
For starters, DeSantis wields actual governmental power, while Trump has none. Beyond that, while Trump reportedly was able to get into the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business only with the help of a family member, DeSantis graduated from Yale University and Harvard Law with honors. And DeSantis, who served in the Navy as a JAG officer, at 42 is far younger than the 75-year-old Trump. DeSantis is the future of the GOP. Trump has — at most — one more campaign left in him.
DeSantis’ rationale for his order about state school mask mandates was that parents — not pediatricians or infectious disease experts — should make decisions about how best to protect the health of children.
Schools open as soon as next week in the Sunshine State during a spike in Covid-19 cases. On Wednesday, Florida reported that 12,408 patients were hospitalized, breaking the state’s Covid-19 hospitalization record, which had been set the day before, with 11,515 patients.
As the Tampa Bay Times reported Tuesday, Florida leads the country in children hospitalized with Covid-19. Pediatric Covid-19 patients in BayCare’s 15 Florida hospitals doubled in July compared to June, after two months of declining numbers.
Experts warn that DeSantis’ decision to ban mask mandates is dangerous to the health of children. A panel of Florida medical experts that included well-known pediatricians warned parents Monday that the delta variant poses a greater risk to children than last summer’s Covid-19 strain, as they all vocally recommended that children wear masks in schools. As one of the Florida doctors bluntly put it, “Children get sick from Covid, children get hospitalized from Covid, and children can die from Covid.”
In an op-ed Wednesday in The Washington Post, Dr. Heather Haq, an assistant professor of pediatrics at Texas’ Baylor College of Medicine, wrote: “I am more worried for children than I have ever been.” Haq and other pediatric doctors have also raised red flags about the possible long-term health impact of the delta variant on children who contract the virus.
The American Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently recommended that all people over age 2 who attend school in person should wear masks — regardless of their vaccination statuses. That’s especially important because children under 11 can’t be vaccinated until the Food and Drug Administration approves the vaccines. And in Florida, only 38 percent of those ages 12 to 19 are vaccinated, the lowest vaccination rate of any age group.
But DeSantis’ sights are trained on a 2024 presidential run.
A poll released Wednesday found that 62 percent of Florida voters support a mask mandate for schools. At first blush, you might think that might cause DeSantis to rethink his position. But DeSantis, like Trump, is focused only on the GOP base. So while the poll finds that 84 percent of Democrats and 66 percent of independents support a school mask mandate, only 39 percent of Republicans feel the same — meaning DeSantis’ position is popular with Republican voters.
That should sound familiar after four years of Trump.
Trump 2.0, like the original, doesn’t care about facts — it’s all about the fear.
If you ban mask mandates when health care experts unanimously say they are needed to protect the health of children, you would reasonably expect a child to get sick — or worse.
But DeSantis, like Trump, won’t back down. In a very Trumpian maneuver Wednesday, DeSantis lashed out at his critics with some very Trumpesque lines. He claimed that the real reason Covid-19 case numbers are climbing in the U.S. is that migrants crossing the border are bringing the virus with them. Fact-checkers have noted that this is false — the Covid-19 spike is occurring in the states with the lowest vaccination rates, many of them far from the southern border. But Trump 2.0, like the original, doesn’t care about facts — it’s all about the fear.
On Tuesday, President Joe Biden commented about DeSantis and other GOP governors who have chosen to block efforts to bring the virus under control: “I say to these governors: Please help. But if you aren’t going to help, at least get out of the way.”
Those words, though, fall on deaf ears with DeSantis. His focus isn’t on what’s good for all the people of Florida — it’s on only what makes the GOP base happy. And if children need to be sacrificed for DeSantis to win the GOP nomination for president, he is clearly willing to take that risk.