Florida Gov. DeSantis Really Mad New York Gave His State Coronavirus
Ron DeSantis looks like the bumbling governor Leslie Nielsen might've played in a comedy, but he's managed the coronavirus outbreak in Florida far less seriously. He wouldn't close public beaches even as horny spring breakers flocked to them, so local officials had to step up. DeSantis has issued executive orders limiting face-to-face interaction and encouraged Floridians to practice “social distancing," but he's yet to issue a “stay-at-home" order, despite the requests of health care workers. Like Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, DeSantis has left imposing restrictive policies to local communities because Florida is just so big. It's unclear why he thinks Florida has a governor in the first place.
Coronavirus cases in Florida are growing at an exponential rate, and experts believe the virus is past the point of containment. DeSantis should look upon his works and despair, but instead he's casting blame at the usual conservative targets. He's blaming New York. Donald Trump proposed an (illegal) federal quarantine of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, which Andrew Cuomo likened to "declaring war" against these states. DeSantis jumped on the scapegoat bandwagon.
DESANTIS: How is it fair to them to just be air dropping in people from the hot zones, bringing infections with them and seeding the communities with new infections that they're trying to stamp out? I just think it's bad policy to have people dispersing from there, and then seeding in other parts of the country, including the state of Florida.
That's some really gross “othering" rhetoric. He's talking about his fellow Americans. It's also hilarious that DeSantis thinks he's even trying to “stamp out" new infections in Florida. He's a living “This is Fine" meme. DeSantis has sent the National Guard to screen New York passengers at seven Florida airports. The passengers are ordered to self-quarantine for 14 days. The Florida Highway Patrol is setting up a screening checkpoint on Interstate 95.
DESANTIS: You can't go to a state park because you may transmit COVID-19, but you can have one of these super-spreaders, sneezing and coughing for two hours and then just get off and that's fine. It's just absolutely ridiculous.
What's “absolutely ridiculous" is that DeSantis still believes visibly sick people are the problem. Presymptomatic or even asymptomatic people can also spread the disease -- you know, like dumb kids wrestling drunk on a beach during Spring Break. I thought we'd covered this during the 1980s AIDS crisis.
DeSeantis also thinks it's unfair that people complain that he left the beaches open while the New York subway system is still operating.
DESANTIS: They're packed like sardines on there, and look, that's their city and they can do what they want ... But a fact of the matter is that some of the people on that subway may be getting on these flights and coming into very close contact with some folks.
Coronavirus outbreak: Miami spring breakers vow to keep partying amid pandemic www.youtube.com
I'm reminded lately of the 1990s Batman storyline "No Man's Land." After Gotham City endures a deadly viral outbreak followed by a major earthquake, the US government says, "fuck it!" and evacuates Gotham, even blowing up the bridges so no one can get in or out. Anyone who either won't or can't leave is left to fend for themselves in an abandoned city with a free-range Joker. Trump is already willing to seal off New York and they haven't even had the earthquake yet.
The president backed down from the quarantine order, but Saturday the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urged residents of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut to refrain from "non-essential domestic travel" for 14 days. DeSantis was so burned by Spring Break, I guess, that he'd really like it if all visitors kindly got the fuck out. He plans to issue an order banning vacation rentals for the next two weeks. That seems reasonable on the surface, but what about the people who were already there when things went to hell? (We've gotta get on a plane and go home now, which seems like a bad idea! — Robyn, who is currently one of those people)
DESANTIS: The concern is people in some of these hotspots wanting to then come here. Now is not really the time to do that. So the vacation rentals will be suspended for two weeks. If you're in one now, then finish and go home.
If people are genuinely fleeing to Florida, it's probably because the governor never issued a sweeping statewide policy that made it clear he took the outbreak seriously. DeSantis didn't bother to act proactively weeks ago so visitors could've returned home safely. It's a little late now. If DeSantis issued a stay-at-home order, it's arguably preferable for the renters to stay put. They are more likely spread or contract the virus if they fly right now. Also, a lot of folks in the South drive to Florida for vacation, and under normal conditions, that would mean stopping overnight in a hotel and using public bathrooms. Neither of which are ideal now. “Finish and go home" is not the best public health directive, and DeSantis isn't the best governor.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes reviews for the A.V. Club and make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."