Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis delayed locking down his state and was then among the first to reopen, and residents are losing trust in his leadership as coronavirus cases spike after the shutdown ended.
The state’s cases are hitting new records on a near-daily basis and, even more ominously, the percentage of positive cases has been steadily climbing since DeSantis called for the state’s reopening May 18, reported Politico.
“[DeSantis is] shooting himself in the foot,” said Dr. Aileen Marty, a Florida International University pandemic expert. “[He is] so eager to open up the economy because we’re in a recession now. It is a horrible situation, but he thinks in downplaying the threat of the virus that’s going to help the economy.”
“It’s going to backfire because if people fail to understand how dangerous this particular virus is,” Marty added, “they’re going to act in irresponsible ways.”
That’s what happened to Jacksonville nurse Erika Crisp and 15 of her friends, who decided to celebrate what they thought was the end of months of staying indoors and social distancing June 6 by going out to Lynch’s Irish Pub for drinks.
“The first night we go out, [it was] ‘Murphy’s Law,’ I guess,” Crisp told WJXT-TV. “The only thing we have in common is that one night at that one bar.”
The 40-year-old nurse, who has been sick for eight days, and all 15 of those friends have tested positive for COVID-19 — and Crisp said she regrets trusting the governor’s order.
“I think we were careless and we went out into a public place when we should not have,” Crisp said, “and we were not wearing masks. I think we had a whole ‘out of sight, out of mind’ mentality. The state opens back up and said everybody was fine, so we took advantage of that.”
The ill nurse said the state isn’t ready to reopen, and severe preventative measures should remain in place.
“We should be wearing masks, we should be social distancing,” Crisp said. “It was too soon to open everything back up.”
Lynch’s Pub voluntarily closed down for a deep cleansing after the contagious women partied there, and DeSantis will welcome the Republican National Convention to Jacksonville later this summer.
“You’re talking about a massive economic impact,” DeSantis said. “I think you’re gonna have folks that are going to be able to spend a lot of money. I think it’ll help with the economic recovery.”
“Look, we’re not out of the woods with the jobs by any stretch,” he added.
But the state isn’t out of the woods with the coronavirus yet, either, experts warned.
“[The convention would be a] wonderful way to spread infection,” Marty said, adding that nationwide protests of George Floyd’s police killing would also lead to new infections. “The virus doesn’t care what we’re doing when we gather together, whether we’re protesting or having a convention or a party.”
DeSantis justified the Republican event by complaining about media coverage of the nationwide Black Lives Matter demonstrations.
“I would remind people that we just were through an era, a two-week period, where you had tens of thousands of people gathering in very close proximity in Hollywood, California, New York — all these places,” DeSantis said. “There is not yet evidence that I’m aware of that that has sparked any type of significant outbreaks.”
State Sen. Jeff Brandes (R-FL) said DeSantis, whose approval ratings remain favorable, has “a net positive for Trump” by “showing real leadership,” but Miami Beach’s Democratic mayor Dan Gelber said the governor must speak out more about the risks from coronavirus and reopening.
“People ask me if I’m worried,” Gerber said, “and I say that you would have to be a fool to not be worried. The problem isn’t just that there’s no playbook for this, it’s that nobody is even calling any plays.”