By Brooke Robinson
Amid the chaos and financial burdens being endured by businesses and families across the nation, the topic of how the situation has been handled by federal and local government has been greatly debated. Atop the list of officials who have been criticized for their lack of urgency regarding COVID-19 mandates, is Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.
Following Fauci’s national warning regarding the “stay-at-home” mandates and social distancing, 13 Florida lawmakers joined together to sign a letter pleading that Gov. DeSantis issue a state-wide stay-at-home order. Thousands of Floridians and viewers across the nation backed these thirteen lawmakers as criticism against DeSantis continued to rise. At this point, Florida was home to more than 6,700 confirmed coronavirus cases, and 85 deaths.
Gov. DeSantis continually shifted the blame by critics, claiming that this decision was up to local governments rather than him. During news conferences he would mention that he was “powerless” in the situation, which was believed by very few. Often, DeSantis stated that it was up to the public to make these decisions, and that people would do as they please regardless of a state mandate.
“I was flying out of Miami yesterday, looking at beaches with signs saying they were closed,” DeSantis added. “Were there people out there? Damn right there were. It’s really up to the locals to deal with them one way or the other. It’s just unfortunate, but no matter what you do you’re going to have a class of folks who are going to do whatever the hell they want to.”
With so many University of Tampa students having family in other states, the divide in state mandates became quickly evident. “It wasn’t until I spoke with my family in New Jersey that I truly understood just how behind we were as a state,” said Connor Callahan, a senior finance major at UT. “New Jersey along with most other states were in lock-down far before Florida. It didn’t take long to put the pieces together regarding the lack of awareness and urgency DeSantis had been exhibiting.”
According to the case-map released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, prior to DeSantis’ mandate on Wednesday, April 1, Florida has been the only state with cases in excess of 5,000 to not have a stay-at-home order in place. California, New York, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan and New Jersey had been experiencing similar growth in confirmed cases, yet enacted stay-at-home mandates weeks earlier than DeSantis.
DeSantis unquestionably acted too late on this mandate, persistently mentioning that people would act however they wanted, regardless of a mandate.
Along with his theory that the people of Florida were uncontainable, Gov. DeSantis additionally expressed his feeling that the people of Florida most likely wouldn’t be at risk because of the lack of open businesses at the time. Complementing the public’s negative opinions regarding DeSantis’ awareness of the situation, he stated “Everything’s pretty much closed, it’s not like there’s anything to do.”
Today, Florida has tallied more than 19,000 confirmed cases, and 452 deaths. Many Floridians continue to point blame at DeSantis for the rapid spread of COVID-19 that Florida has seen. Could it have been curbed earlier on?
Brooke Robinson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org