The governor's determination to keep the course despite a rising number of infections is drawing criticism from Democrats who point fingers at the Republican incumbent. As of Monday, Florida had one of the highest COVID-19 hospitalization rates in the country.
The increasingly tribal nature of partisan politics has made it a focal point for the changing attitudes and actions of elected officials regarding vaccinations and masks. DeSantis' rise to national prominence has been helped by the ideological schism in Florida over preventive protocols. This has also made him a keystone of Democrats' efforts against him.
"I believe it's grossly politicization and I find it shameful. It's based upon a guy who has his sights on the Republican nomination in ‘24 instead of the governorship or the people of Florida, in ’22. Clearly, it's it," said Charlie Crist, a St. Petersburg Democrat, to The News Service of Florida at a Tallahassee appearance. Crist was a Republican governor before becoming a Democrat. He lost a 2014 gubernatorial race.
DeSantis is not abandoning his laissez-faire approach even though the highly transmissible delta version of the novel coronavirus is tearing through the Sunshine State.
DeSantis said Tuesday that "we are not closing down." "We will keep schools open. We are protecting every Floridian’s job in this State. We protect small businesses. These interventions failed repeatedly throughout the pandemic in America and abroad. They have not stopped the spread of the pandemic, especially with delta.
DeSantis is focusing on economic recovery, so Nikki Fried (Agriculture Commissioner) has taken over the role of chief COVID-19 inform officer. DeSantis has issued an executive order that will prevent school districts from requiring students wear masks. She has been holding news conferences in Florida to discuss hospitalizations and infection rates.
Fried tweeted Wednesday, "We stand in unison with our local school boards that have the constitutional power of protecting our children and won’t be bullied nor defunded by our wannabe autoritarian governor."
The executive order was made headlines by DeSantis last week. It came after he ridiculed federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations at an appearance at the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council's annual meeting.
DeSantis stated that "we say no to lockdowns," school closures, restrictions and mandates at the Salt Lake City event. He also said that people "shouldn't be consigned to living... in Faucian dystopias."
DeSantis has made Anthony Fauci (an infectious-disease expert widely respected who was part of the White House COVID-19 advisory group), a frequent target of ridicule. For example, the governor's committee is making a profit from Republicans' animosity towards Fauci by selling merchandise with messages like "Don't Fauci My Florida."
DeSantis' anger is not limited to the 80 year-old doctor. DeSantis has taken a similar defensive stance towards the CDC. He sued the federal agency and President Joe Biden for refusing to lift cruise restrictions.
The White House is responding to Florida and Texas, which were responsible for one-third of COVID-19 cases in America last week. Biden blamed DeSantis, Texas Governor on Tuesday. Greg Abbott was blamed for "bad health policies" in light of the spikes in both states.
Critics charge DeSantis with pandering to GOP base voter -- who are large-spending voters for the primaries -- over issues like face masks, his reliance upon scientists and data that is considered outliers in medicine, and his support for face masks.
However, Republicans aren't the only ones skeptical about vaccines and masks, Anthony Pedicini, a GOP political consultant said in a telephone interview with The News Service.
Pedicini stated that Americans are not naturally receptive to the government telling them what to do. This mask debate reveals the essence of American identity.
Pedicini said that sentiments about health-care precautions don't "fall along party lines."
It tears at the core of American identity. We love freedom. We should not be told what to do by the government.
Florida's governor isn't telling anyone that masks are not allowed. If you feel uncomfortable, or this is a life-threatening situation to you, then put on the mask and put on the mask for your children and go about your daily activities," Pedicini said. She had COVID-19 in November and has been urging others to get it.
DeSantis advocated for vaccines, but unlike other GOP governors in states with increases in COVID-19 hospitalizations and cases, has not forced Floridians to have the shots. About half of Floridians who are eligible for vaccinations aren't fully vaccinated.
"Should the governor be an activist in Florida?" Yes. Pedicini stated that he believes he is, and that he is taking the side for freedom. "I believe that it has served him quite well politically."
Recent polls show DeSantis leading the race for the governor's seat. The Republican leader feels strongly that he will win re-election and is "looking forward to the next game which is clearly, the presidential game," said Steve Vancore, a political consultant who advises Democrats.
"You have to be the most conservative and pro-Trump Republican in the field. He seems to be following a script that is tailored for his far-right base. Ron DeSantis is not playing to the middle. Vancore stated that he is always playing to the base.
The COVID-19 health care protocols are being used "as a political pawn, because our governor, and others, have found it to be a political tool," U.S. Rep. Val Demings said in an interview. He is a Democrat and trying to unseat Republican U.S. Senator Marco Rubio.
She said, "Why don't we just listen to our governor and other leaders, be guided by science, information coming from medical professionals, and follow their guidelines?" "I wish that this issue wouldn't be politicized. But it has been since the beginning."