Amidst Florida’s Growing COVID-19 Rates, DeSantis Blames Vulnerable Communities to Hide His Incompetence (OPINION)

Jun 26, 2020
11:42 AM

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at a news conference at an emergency management warehouse alongside props of testing kits about the spread of the coronavirus on Friday March 13, 2020 in Tallahassee, Fla. (AP Photo/Steve Cannon)

MIAMI — In late May, National Review ran a story titled “Where Does Ron DeSantis Go to Get His Apology?” making the case that DeSantis was a savvy elected official guided by data. The piece is littered with quotes from DeSantis in which he smugly talks about what a great job he has done, and it was followed by a temper tantrum that went viral, in which DeSantis blamed the media for pushing a “partisan narrative” against him while flanked by Vice President Mike Pence.

None of this has aged well.

Florida is rapidly becoming the new epicenter for the coronavirus pandemic. Records are being shattered for the number of daily infections. The Florida Department of Health reported an additional 8,942 cases of coronavirus on Tuesday, bringing the state total to 122,960, and shattering the previous record of 5,511 just two days before. 3,366 Floridians have died so far.

Amidst this fiasco, DeSantis has again fallen into his habit of blaming others for his shortcomings.

Before making headlines for being the new epicenter for this global pandemic, Florida was thrust into the national spotlight due to it’s abysmal unemployment benefits system that left hundreds of thousands waiting indefinitely for their claims to be paid. When questioned, DeSantis deflected responsibility for his incompetence by saying that applicants are at fault for submitting wrongful information, while overlooking that there is no option to edit an application or way of connecting with the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity for any sort of inquiry.

Now he is attempting to shift blame for his disastrous handling of the pandemic by scapegoating migrant farmworkers, stating that “overwhelmingly Hispanic” farmworkers and day laborers were the leading source of new infections, a statement that was immediately challenged by Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, who noted that farmworkers left weeks ago after harvests ended.

The reality is that DeSantis has no one but himself to blame for the disaster unfolding.

This is the same governor who shows up at press conferences and struggles to put on a face mask. That declared professional wrestling an essential business for some bizarre reason. That failed to close Florida’s beaches at the outbreak of the virus during Spring Break. That rushed to reopen the state against the advice of healthcare professionals. That fired a data scientist who refused to falsify information. That to this day, refuses to make the wearing of masks mandatory.

Adding insult to injury, agricultural communities have been essentially abandoned and neglected throughout this crisis, with the state only very recently beginning to ramp up testing and engaging in public health education campaigns.

State officials were warned of the dire situation in these communities by farmworker advocacy groups and Commissioner Fried had stressed the need for protective gear for farmworkers  in a 10-page strategy for reopening the state.

Lourdes Villanueva, the director of the Farmworker Advocacy for Redland Christian Migrant Association, said that “from day one we asked for help for farmworkers, none came. It’s always about blaming the less fortunate.”

It’s clear for anyone paying attention that DeSantis is way over his head and people will unfortunately die because of the incompetence displayed by him and his cronies. Like Trump, he is unprepared and fumbles his way through press conferences, he lashes out at the media and critics, and is in denial about the crisis unfolding across the state.

At this moment, Florida needs steady and responsible leadership to guide us through this crisis. Instead we have a governor who abdicates responsibility while engaging in racist dog whistles.


Thomas Kennedy is the Florida State Coordinator for United We Dream. He was a member of the Bernie Sanders 2020 campaign and tweets from @Tomaskenn.