As COVID surges in Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis' mantra seems to be 'business as usual'

We're on a death trip.
We're on a death trip. illustration by Brian Phillips

COVID numbers in the U.S. are exploding. Cases are surging throughout the country, and many states have gone back into lockdown, closing schools and businesses in an attempt to save lives.

Not Florida.

Our new Legislature convened for the first time last week to plan the March session, and its new Republican leadership renounced any responsibility for mitigating the spread of the virus, saying it was not their role. (Some of them even think it's "silly" to wear masks.)

Florida Surgeon General Scott Rivkees, whose role it definitely is, hasn't been seen in a press conference for months. His top spokesperson, Alberto Moscoso, rather abruptly left his job "for new opportunities" amid a shakeup in October, when the Governor’s Office expressed a desire — or should we say intention — to reduce the frequency of reporting Florida's pandemic cases, infection rates and deaths.

In mid-November, after Moscoso's departure, the press secretary for the state Department of Health instructed the public information officers of Florida's 67 counties not to speak to reporters about the recent COVID-19 surge.

All communications on COVID will now go through the governor's office for approval.

Meanwhile, Gov. DeSantis has offered no new guidance on the pandemic since putting the state into reopening Phase 3 in late September, though his administration did announce earlier this month that nursing home residents can leave their facilities for the holidays and do not have to be tested when they return. He's even taken to issuing statements by video, which makes it much easier to avoid reporters or questions of any type.

Lest you think our illustration is melodramatic, please note that 2018 gubernatorial candidate Chris King even accused De Santis of a "killing spree" (on Twitter, not in a glove-to-the-face duel thing).

It's clear that business concerns are uppermost for DeSantis; perhaps he shares Texas pol Dan Patrick's view that Grandma and Grandpa should be willing to die to protect Wall Street. The FDOH did issue holiday guidelines, but they didn't discourage travel. Instead, the their guidelines recommend that people who have traveled from other areas attempt to "distance themselves" from people who are 65 or older and people who have underlying health issues."

By way of contrast, Mississippi state medical official Dr. Mark Horne said to the residents of his state, "We don't really want to see Mamaw at Thanksgiving and bury her by Christmas." Blunt, but to the point. And the Mississippi Free Press, a paper we revere, ran with an equally blunt headline: "After Big Thanksgiving Dinners, Plan Small Christmas Funerals, Health Experts Warn."

In Florida, our leaders' only mantra seems to be "business as usual," perhaps because they are beholden to their business lobbyists and campaign donors. But if we spend Thanksgiving gathered old and young around the table, as it seems likely many of us will, the one business sure to see an uptick is going to be funeral homes.

Stay on top of Central Florida news and views with our weekly newsletters, and consider supporting this free publication. Our small but mighty team is working tirelessly to bring you Central Florida news, and every little bit helps.
Scroll to read more Orlando Area News articles


Join Orlando Weekly Newsletters

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.