Despite DeSantis' earlier boasts, Florida shatters virus record

DeSantis used to brag about Florida's coronavirus numbers being better than New York's. That was before Florida broke New York's single-day record.
Image: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at a news conference at Universal Studios Wednesday, June 3, 2020, in Orlando, Fla.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at a news conference at Universal Studios Wednesday, June 3, 2020, in Orlando, Fla.John Raoux / AP
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By Steve Benen

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) appeared at a White House event in late April and sounded like a man eager to boast. When a reporter asked the Republican governor about criticisms he'd received over his delayed decision to close down the state in response to the coronavirus pandemic, DeSantis said "the results" speak for themselves.

"I mean, you go from D.C., Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Illinois -- you name it -- Florida has done better," the governor bragged. DeSantis added that Florida's numbers were "way below what anyone predicted" as a result of his strategy.

A month later, the Florida Republican chided reporters, reminding them of predictions that Florida's numbers would resemble New York's. "We've succeeded and I think that people just don’t want to recognize it because it challenges their narrative," DeSantis said in May.

The chest-thumping rhetoric was unfortunate at the time. It's worse now.

Florida shattered records for any state's single-day recording of new coronavirus cases Sunday, announcing almost 15,300 new cases. The state added 15,299 cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by coronavirus, to its constantly rising total, outpacing New York's previous daily record by more than 3,000.

This wasn't what the governor's allies in conservative media expected to see. On May 20, National Review published a piece with a memorable headline: "Where Does Ron DeSantis Go to Get His Apology?" The idea at the time was that the Florida Republican had implemented an effective plan for his state, and that DeSantis' critics, who raised the alarm about possible outbreaks, were wrong.

The same day, Fox News' Sean Hannity declared, “The mob and the media ... owe Gov. DeSantis a huge apology." The host added that "all the states" should follow the lead set by Florida and Texas.

By all appearances, conservative media is no longer celebrating Florida as a national model.

But the significance of the Sunshine State's tragic record isn't limited to failed predictions and unfortunate punditry. As NBC News' report added, Florida is moving forward with its re-opening plans despite the infection numbers -- the governor said there was "no justification to not move forward" -- and state officials still plan to re-open the state's public schools for the upcoming academic year. DeSantis has also resisted calls for a statewide order on wearing masks.

And did I mention that the Republican National Convention is scheduled to begin six weeks from today? According to the current plan, Donald Trump intends to accept his party's nomination in Jacksonville -- where the president has said he wants an event without masks or social distancing.