Democrats up pressure on Florida governor to shut down state
Former Vice President Joe Biden on Wednesday became the latest Democrat to criticize Florida’s attempts to halt the spread of novel coronavirus, suggesting Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis has sidelined health professionals and failed to protect a state with a large population of vulnerable senior citizens.
“While other large states continue to take strong, urgent, and sweeping action to stop the spread of COVID-19, Florida has not,” Biden said in a statement issued Wednesday morning by his campaign. “I urge Governor Desantis to let the experts speak to the public and explain why this is the case. In this moment of growing uncertainty and anxiety, Floridians want — and deserve — to hear from the public health officials leading the charge.”
The statement from the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination was the latest sign of a growing partisan divide over Florida’s handling of the growing coronavirus epidemic in the state.
On Tuesday, several Democrats in the state Senate called on DeSantis to slow the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by novel coronavirus, by issuing a statewide shelterin-place order. That was followed Wednesday morning by a letter from 10 Democratic members of Congress urging DeSantis to act quickly.
“We understand the grave economic consequences this action will have. But hoping to dull the impacts on the economy in the short term by delaying a shelter-in-place order will only exacerbate those impacts in the medium and long term,” stated the letter, issued by the office of U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch and signed by every Democratic representative from South Florida.
DeSantis, who has repeatedly turned back calls over the last week to shut down the state, said again Wednesday during a press conference at Florida’s state logistics response center in Orlando that he does not believe shutting down the entire state will be effective.
He said some of the shelter-in-place orders given elsewhere “make no sense” given that flights have still left the ground and public transportation is still running.
“You’re telling people if you live in some random town somewhere, ‘You must be imprisoned in your home. Don’t leave your home. Don’t do it.’ And yet people are riding the subway in New York City. People fly all over the place from some of the hot zones? Really?” he said. “How does that make any sense if we’re trying to contain this thing? So some of these measures are more symbolic where they can say they’re trying to do something.”
Florida now has more than 1,400 confirmed cases of COVID-19, but DeSantis said that there are counties with few or no confirmed cases of the disease and worried that forcing communities to shutter and businesses to close down will have severe economic consequences and potentially exacerbate suicides, domestic abuse and mental health issues.
On Tuesday, DeSantis urged seniors to isolate themselves at home and said he is sending members of the Florida National Guard to airports to meet people flying in from New York — the hardest hit state in the U.S. — and ensure they isolate themselves for two weeks before venturing out.
He has preferred to give municipalities the option to close down, and Miami, Miami Beach, Orlando and other jurisdictions in the state have done just that.
“There are certain parts of the state where they have more sporadic cases, and to order someone not to be able to have a paycheck when them going to work is not going to have an effect on what we’re doing with the virus, that’s something that’s inappropriate,” DeSantis said Wednesday, adding later: “Our resources have been driven by the facts.”
Former Vice President Joe Biden and 10 Florida Democrats in Congress on Wednesday called on Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, above, to issue a shelter-in-place order for the state.