While governors of some of the biggest states in the country have called for a complete “shelter-in-place” directive to crack down on residents’ movements to try to control the spread of the coronavirus, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has not done so yet, prompting two Florida Democrats to blast him for a lack of leadership on Monday.
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“We have a situation in Florida where we have a governor who has been irresponsible and has had an absence of leadership,” said South Florida Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz on a conference call organized by the Florida Democratic Party.
Late last week, DeSantis issued his most far reaching measures statewide to date, announcing that all bars, gyms and fitness centers must close, and restaurants can only offer delivery service. But he also admitted on Friday that he has refrained in part on making further restrictions because he’s not the not the type of person who likes telling people what to do.
That’s unacceptable, says Wasserman Schultz.
“In the midst of a public health crisis in the third largest state in the country with the highest concentration of the elderly, and that he uses that as a lame excuse as to why he wouldn’t order the closure of all public beaches is an outrage,” she said.
Many local governments have announced the closing of their public beaches, but there has been no standwide mandate to close them. Images of spring breakers partying on Clearwater Beach made national news on consecutive days last week, prompting the Pinellas County Commission to order the closing of all public beaches last Thursday – an order that was opposed by Sheriff Bob Gualtieri.
Wasserman Schultz represents parts of Broward and Palm Beach counties in Congress. The other two Democratic members of Congress on the call, Debbie Murcasel-Powell and Donna Shalala, represent parts of Miami-Dade County. Those three counties have had about half of all of the state’s reported coronavirus cases.
Shalala said she has been worried about the lack of leadership from President Trump in handling the crisis, and now says she worries equally about Gov. DeSantis.
“Both of them are failing the test of leadership,” she said. “They’re much too timid, much too controlled by a failure to understand the depths of this crisis.”
Murcasel-Powell also said she worried about a lack of urgency in Tallahassee to adapt to the facts on the ground in Florida.
Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, the state’s highest-ranking Democrat, called on the governor to implement a “stay-at-home” order on Friday. On Sunday she said that since she made that statement Florida has had 294 more COVID-19 cases and three more deaths reported.
“Governor, the sooner we act, the more lives we save,” she tweeted.
At a press conference in the Villages on Monday, DeSantis continued to encourage people to avoid close contact with people, but said he still had no inclination to impose a mandatory statewide shutdown.
The Florida Democrats spoke on a conference call that was organized to mark the 10th anniversary of the Affordable Care Act. There are now more than 1.9 million Floridians on the federal program.
The U.S. Supreme Court will hear a Republican challenge later this year that would dismantle the ACA, a position the Trump administration supports. However, the Wall Street Journal reported over the weekend that The Trump administration is looking at a new enrollment period for people to sign up to the ACA as the coronavirus continues to spread.
Two progressive groups – For Our Future Florida and Priorities USA – issued a statement on Monday blasting the president for advocating for the elimination of the program.
“No state has benefited from the Affordable Care Act more than Florida,” said Blake Williams with For Our Future Florida. “The health and security of our nation requires more stability, not less.”
“With the country currently facing down a deadly coronavirus pandemic, Floridians’ ability to access high-quality, affordable health care is perhaps more important than it’s ever been, “said Daniela Martins, Priorities USA’s Florida Outreach Director. “We can’t let Donald Trump take it away. Not now, not ever. Our lives depend on it.”
At his press conference on Sunday night, the president vowed once again to preserve pre-existing conditions, one of the most popular provisions of the ACA.
“Now, if we could get a great healthcare plan, which would need the House to do, but if we can get a great healthcare plan, we will only do it if we have preexisting conditions totally backed,” Trump said. “We are running the bad healthcare much better than it was ever run and we’re making it better. But it could be much better than it is.”
Shortly after Senate Democrats rejected a stimulus bill to deal with the economic fallout from the health crisis, a spokesperson for the Trump campaign lashed out at Democrats.
“President Trump has taken bold and decisive action that has undoubtedly saved American lives while Democrats are playing political games holding up legislation that would help millions during these trying times. Democrats should put politics aside and come together for the sake of our country,” said Trump Victory Spokesperson Emma Vaughn.