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As Florida's COVID crisis intensifies, DeSantis' response falters

As case numbers and hospitalizations in Florida reach new heights, Ron DeSantis' plan largely consists of wishing Floridians luck.

In mid-March, Politico published a report under text that read, "How Ron DeSantis won the pandemic." As we've discussed, the evidence to bolster the claim was dubious, but the report nevertheless featured Florida's Republican governor -- the year before his re-election campaign and in advance of his likely presidential bid -- gloating that he's had the "better approach" to responding to the pandemic.

To be sure, the Sunshine State has had peaks and valleys over the course of the COVID crisis, but DeSantis' boasts look especially misplaced now. Over the weekend, Florida's tally of new cases reached its highest point since the start of the pandemic. COVID hospitalizations in the state have also reached an all-time high.

Over the course of the crisis, conditions in Florida had gotten bad, but not this bad. Tom Bossert, a former Homeland Security Advisor in the Trump White House, noted, "This wave is now larger than all previous waves." An NBC News report added over the weekend, "The state has become the new national epicenter for the virus, accounting for around a fifth of all new cases in the U.S."

These are incredibly difficult circumstances for a governor, and DeSantis isn't exactly rising to the occasion.

As conditions in his state worsened, the Florida Republican recently left for Texas, "burnishing his 2024 presidential ambitions with a visit to the southern border." Last week, as the Tallahassee Democrat reported, he traveled to Utah to speak at an American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) event.

DeSantis ... drew a line in the sand against government-imposed restrictions to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus and its variants. "I think it's very important that we say, unequivocally, no to lockdowns, no to school closures, no to restrictions and no (to) mandates," DeSantis said to applause and cheers.

The report added that in his remarks, the GOP governor declared that Floridians are "free to choose" how to fight the pandemic, and mocked any pending government issued restrictions as based on "the whims of bureaucratic authorities."

CNN added that DeSantis is among the Republicans who are "increasingly targeting public-health officials" as the public-health crisis worsens. The Floridian has been especially eager to use Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease official, "as a political punching bag."

The report comes on the heels of DeSantis' campaign team selling merchandise intended to capitalize on far-right criticisms of Fauci. "Don't Fauci My Florida," the Republican's merchandise reads.

In other words, as Florida's infections and hospitalizations reach all-time highs, the state's governor (a) seems to be leaving Florida with some regularity; (b) is encouraging residents not to trust public-health officials whom he accuses of targeting "freedom"; and (c) is taking a firm stand against any kind of "restrictions" intended to save lives.

Or put another way, Ron DeSantis' plan largely consists of wishing Floridians luck.

I'll leave it to others to determine who may or may not be "winning the pandemic," but the evidence suggests the residents of the Sunshine State are losing.