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As the Coronavirus Ravaged FL, Gov. Ron DeSantis Sidelined Scientists and Followed Trump

Florida Surgeon General Dr. Scott Rivkees being led out of a presss conference after failing to tow the company line.
Images: FL Channel | Columbia County Observer graphic

Governor Ron DeSantis has claimed he has been "data driven" throughout the coronavirus pandemic, but an analysis by the Washington Post of the Governor's response shows that the Governor took the advice of the President over medical experts, even his own. Florida is now a global COVID-19 hotspot.

The Washington Post article, Coronavirus ravaged Florida, as Ron DeSantis sidelined scientists and followed Trump.

Here are key excerpts:

DeSantis’ response has been “divorced from scientific evidence”

•  “As Florida became a global epicenter of the coronavirus, Gov. Ron DeSantis held one meeting this month with his top public health official, Scott Rivkees, according to the governor's schedule. His health department has sidelined scientists, halting briefings last month with disease specialists and telling the experts there was not sufficient personnel from the state to continue participating.”

•  “As the virus spread out of control in Florida, decision-making became increasingly shaped by politics and divorced from scientific evidence, according to interviews with 64 current and former state and administration officials, health administrators, epidemiologists, political operatives and hospital executives.”

•  “The crisis in Florida, these observers say, has revealed the shortcomings of a response built on shifting metrics, influenced by a small group of advisers and tethered at every stage to the Trump administration, which has no unified plan for addressing the national health emergency but has pushed for states to reopen.”

•  “The spokesman, Alberto Moscoso, did not explain why the department had ended its work with the university modeling team or why Rivkees appears only once this month on the governor’s schedules, which have been released through July 23.”

•  “But the crisis in Florida has been especially acute, infectious-disease specialists say, because politics have dictated the response at crucial junctures — never more so than with the state’s reopening, which was cast by the governor as a return to normal rather than as a new and even more precarious phase of the pandemic.”

Listening to Trump, the Governor made the crisis worse

•  “The governor’s quest to put the pandemic behind him undermined the very message — that the virus was still a deadly threat — that could have made his reopening a success, said J. Glenn Morris, director of the University of Florida’s Emerging Pathogens Institute.”

•  “The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Florida now eclipses New York’s caseload by more than 3,300. Florida has at least 168,000 more cases than Italy, a country with about three times the state’s population.”

•  “Trump feels bonhomie with DeSantis, likes having him in the Oval Office and regularly speaks with him on the phone, even though many around the president do not trust the governor, people familiar with the matter say. DeSantis also regularly consults with Brad Parscale, the president’s recently deposed campaign manager.”

•  “‘They keep hoping it’s going to go away by itself,’” said Richard Hopkins, an epidemiologist who spent 19 years at the Florida Department of Health. “‘I don’t know what’s going on — whether they’re afraid that they will get primaried by someone to their right if they take appropriate public health action.’’”

•  “Approval of DeSantis’s handling of the pandemic has fallen by double digits since April, when 50 percent of registered voters in Florida backed the governor’s approach. Now, 38 percent of residents approve of his response, while 57 percent disapprove, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released Thursday.”

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