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As Florida's COVID troubles worsen, DeSantis faces GOP pushback

The worse COVID conditions in Florida become, the more Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) balks at policies designed to help address the pandemic.


There's plenty of COVID-related news out of Florida, and all of it is awful. A week ago this morning, we took a look at conditions in the Sunshine State, which had reached crisis levels unseen since the start of the pandemic. An NBC News report noted at the time, "The state has become the new national epicenter for the virus."

Seven days later, things are much worse. Over the weekend, Florida once again broke its own record for newly reported coronavirus infections in a single day. COVID-related hospitalizations have also reached an all-time high. Even fatalities -- a lagging indicator -- have started to climb in the state.

In response, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) has adopted a multifaceted plan. The first step involved taking a firm stand against any measures intended to curtail infections. During one of his out-of-state trips, the Republican governor declared, "I think it's very important that we say, unequivocally, no to lockdowns, no to school closures, no to restrictions and no (to) mandates."

This was soon followed by DeSantis lashing out at a variety of perceived political foes, including public-health officials, President Joe Biden, journalists, and immigrants.

What the governor has refused to do is adopt policies designed to help address the pandemic. As the New York Times reported over the weekend:

Mr. DeSantis has been unyielding in his approach to the pandemic, refusing to change course or impose restrictions despite uncontrolled spread and spiking hospitalizations -- an approach that forced him to undertake the biggest risk of his rising political career.

A Washington Post report added that the GOP governor is among the Republicans who've "decided new surges are tolerable and do not require a robust response to quell."

The passivity in response to tragedy is difficult to understand, much less defend, but it'd be a mistake to suggest DeSantis is doing literally nothing. He's already taken important actions such as preventing local officials from acting on their own to try to save lives, preventing Florida communities and businesses that want to impose modest restrictions to stem the tide of infections.

Even some in his party have decided not to endorse the governor's recklessness. Referring to the Floridian's prohibition on mask mandates in schools, Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) conceded on CNN yesterday, "I do disagree with Gov. DeSantis. The local officials should have control here."

The Louisianan, a physician by trade, added that "when it comes to local conditions, if my hospital is full, and my vaccination rate is low and infection rate is going crazy, we should allow local officials to make those decisions best for their community."

It is a position DeSantis, at least for now, refuses to consider. One can only wonder how much worse conditions would have to become before the governor changes course.

In at least one case, the Florida Republican isn't being given a choice. After DeSantis banned cruise lines from requiring proof of vaccination for passengers -- a policy that remains utterly bonkers, given how quickly a virus can spread among people confined to a boat -- Norwegian Cruise Lines filed suit.

Yesterday, as NBC News reported, a federal judge issued an order allowing the company to require passengers to prove they've been vaccinated, ruling that the cruise line would be "irreparably injured" by DeSantis' policy.

In mid-March, Politico published a report under text that read, "How Ron DeSantis won the pandemic." Five months later, there's no great mystery as to why we no longer see such headlines.