Democrats up pres­sure on Florida gov­er­nor to shut down state

Miami Herald - - THE VIRUS CRISIS - BY DAVID SMI­LEY dsmi­[email protected]­ami­her­ald.com David Smi­ley: 305-376-2284, @NewsBySmi­ley

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.”

JOHN RAOUX AP

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.

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