An investigation lead by the Sun Sentinel found that Florida Governor Ron DeSantis mislead the public on COVID-19. According to the Sun Sentinel, DeSantis’ administration hid facts and information, dismissed public health professionals, and promoted views from scientific naysayers that supported the governor’s approach to the virus.
According to Sun Sentinel, the DeSantis administration: stopped officials from making statements about COVID-19 until after the election; refused to acknowledge the first suspected case in Florida and denied the way that the virus spreads; refused to give information about the number of infections in prisons, schools, nursing homes, and hospitals, fearing legal action from families, groups, and journalist; only working with scientists that agree with the governor’s ideas; spreads misinformation about the virus through Twitter; hiding Florida’s rising death toll.
DeSantis, who promises no more lockdowns and no face mask mandates, has received flak from government officials. Despite the criticism, some believe that DeSantis is doing his best with handling the coronavirus pandemic.
“The governor is a smart, educated guy,” said Thomas Unnasch, co-director of the Center for Global Health and Infectious Disease Research at the University of South Florida. “But he also is a politically savvy guy. He is encouraging people who believe that the virus is not as severe and profound as others say it is and putting politics before science.”
“He acted quickly to save thousands of nursing home residents. He knew of drugs in the pipeline and was ready to act for Florida when he knew they were coming online. He’s been consistent even as the pandemic has become political,” Fred Piccolo Jr., the governor’s spokesperson, said.
DeSantis’s refusal to take advantage of Florida’s university-affiliated experts on infectious diseases has made a lot of doctors and experts skeptical.
“We have over 200 affiliated faculty within this institution,” said Dr. Glenn Morris, director of the University of Florida’s Emerging Pathogen Institute. “This is what we do for a living. Yet the state has not taken full advantage of that expertise.”
Morris believes that DeSantis’s administration is putting politics before science. Florida’s Surgeon General Dr. Scott Rivkees assembled a group of scientists for a COVID-19 task force but later told the group that they wouldn’t be needed because they didn’t want information leaking to the media. DeSantis sought out scientific advice from Dr. Scott Atlas, a radiologist and senior fellow at Stanford University’s conservative Hoover Institution, who agreed with his approach to the virus. Some found it puzzling that he would choose someone that didn’t have a background in infectious disease.
“Calling people in from out of state to be experts who are of your same mindset, you are controlling the narrative, and it’s politics, not science,” said Dr. Jay Wolfson, senior associate dean of the University of South Florida’s Morsani College of Medicine. “Florida is one of the top states in the nation for expertise to draw on. Unfortunately, at the state level, I’m afraid we are not being heard, and evidence-based data is not being used as far decisions are being made.”
As the number of cases continues to rise and experts warn of a troubling winter, DeSantis insist on no more lockdowns or mask mandates. DeSantis believes that mask mandates and lockdowns do not work.
“At some point you have to look at the observed experience about what’s happening,” DeSantis said. “And I think there’s narratives like ‘lockdowns work.’ And they don’t, if you look at the evidence, business closures, all this stuff, look at what just happened in Europe, France locked down Switzerland didn’t – some vital curve, literally, no difference. So you focus on protecting vulnerable people. You provide the resources to our medical and hospitals as they need it.”
Only time will tell if the decisions that DeSantis has made for the state of Florida are right.