Still too early for DeSantis’ victory lap
Calling his approach “evidence based” and pro-science, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a new law and an executive order Monday that will neuter efforts by cities and counties to contain the spread of the coronavirus.
In a premature declaration of victory against the pandemic, DeSantis tied the hands of Miami Beach as it prepares to host crowds over Memorial Day weekend and of Miami-Dade County as it continues to deal with some of the highest rates of infection in the state and persistently low vaccination among Black residents.
DeSantis justified his move based on Florida’s progress on vaccinations. As of Monday, 42 percent of Floridians had received at least one shot of a vaccine and 30 percent had had both, according to the New York Times vaccine tracker. That’s behind the national average of 44 percent Americans who’ve had at least one dose and far from what we need to reach herd immunity (that’s if we ever do, given the large number of Americans still hesitant about the vaccine).
Certainly, we have made great progress vaccinating people and curbing infections, but DeSantis’ news conference in St. Petersburg didn’t seem to be happening in a state that registered more than 3,000 new cases and 41 deaths on Monday.
DeSantis’ executive order nullifies emergency orders put in place by local governments, such as mask mandates. He also signed into law Senate Bill 2006, which bans businesses from requiring proof of vaccination, limits local emergency powers and gives the governor the ability to invalidate a local emergency order.
These efforts are an insult to anyone working to safely return to normal, whether they be a government or a cruise line trying to assure customers its ships are safe. Despite DeSantis’ assertion that he’s following science, this goes against the majority of experts who warn that wearing masks still is necessary in many situations even as people get vaccinated.
This is yet another power grab from a governor and Legislature imposing their ideological approach to the virus. They seem more concerned with allowing anti-maskers and virus deniers to have their “personal freedom” than protecting the health of the majority of Floridians. If only they spent as much effort asking people to mask up instead of making it easier for them not to.
This is ironic coming from Republicans who value local control, decentralization and private enterprise.
Perhaps the biggest irony is
that the executive order DeSantis announced Monday won’t really change much because he has been chipping away at local restrictions for months, leaving counties and cities little leeway to fight the coronavirus.
Still, local governments had been working within the confinements of what the state allows. Now, thanks to the governor’s latest move, Miami Beach won’t be able to shut down businesses that don’t enforce a mask mandate for their customers and employees. With popular clubs reopening and out-of-state crowds expected for Memorial Day, all we have left is the hope that businesses choose to do the right thing.
Worse than taking from communities the power to address the pandemic according to their unique situation — South Florida’s outbreak was much worse than that in rural parts of the state, for example — is the message DeSantis sent with his announcement.
“It sends a message to everybody, you don’t have to worry anymore,” Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber told the Editorial Board.
As tempting as its is to assume the pandemic is over, we’re not there yet and — given the governor’s latest order — likely won’t be soon.