Florida is in crisis. Last week, the recurring toxic red tide that routinely affects the west coast of the state left 1,200 tons of dead marine wildlife while businesses had to shut down because of the horrible smell that emanates from the polluted water. Red tide is a natural occurrence that is exacerbated by human factors, such as pollutants like sewage and fertilizer waste, creating nutrients in the seawater that allow algae blooms to rapidly form. Over 200 million gallons of polluted water were recently discharged from the Piney Point phosphate plant into our fragile ecosystem, resulting in the current disaster.
What did Florida governor Ron DeSantis do? He downplayed the effects during a press conference in St. Petersburg and refused to call for a state of emergency, citing that he needed to protect business interests.
As this natural disaster unfolds, Florida is taking center stage in the reemergence of COVID-19. The state made national headlines last week as it accounted for 20 percent of all cases nationwide. Last Friday, the state reported 73,000 cases, a 48 percent increase over the previous week. The positivity rate is at 15.1 percent.
The Florida Department of Health was ordered by the DeSantis administration to end daily reports, citing previously declining cases and low positivity rates, so now we are depending on data by the CDC or a weekly state report. Now that the pandemic is again getting out of control, there is no excuse for Florida to not release daily reports, and we can only assume that refusing to do so is an effort to try and hide the true extent of the disaster that state authorities seem incapable of not just managing but also taking seriously.
What is DeSantis doing while this public health disaster unfolds and 38,741 Floridians die so far under his watch? He is selling anti-mask campaign merch, such as a beer koozie that says, “How the hell am I going to be able to drink a beer with a mask on.” Personally, I don’t think that the thousands of Floridians that have died due to this pandemic is a laughing matter and I’m pretty sure that the family members of those who have unfortunately passed away would agree with me.
.@GovRonDeSantis campaign website is selling some on very on brand, #MAGA-style merchandise.
“Don’t Fauci My Florida” koozies in blue and “How the hell an I going to be able to drink a beer with a mask on?” in red.
h/t @Weinsteinlaw pic.twitter.com/7U5SpYZsdr
— Anthony Man (@browardpolitics) July 12, 2021
In addition to selling insensitive and idiotic campaign merch, DeSantis spent most of last month flying across the country to raise money for his campaign. He recently and inexplicably went to Texas for a cheap political stunt at the border (paid by Florida taxpayers), in which he attacked immigrants in an effort to imitate Trump. After that, and as these disasters spun completely out of control, he went to Aspen, Colorado, for a meeting of the Republican Governors Association.
As Florida leads the country in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations surge, DeSantis is downplaying the situation, which as shown by the red tide fiasco, seems to be his go-to move when confronted by a crisis created by his own incompetence.
Anyone paying attention to politics in Florida can tell that while DeSantis might officially be running to be reelected as governor, his true ambition is to become president in 2024. We Floridians deserve a governor that takes his job seriously and is not focused on his own political career at the expense of fulfilling his responsibilities. This would be true under any context but unfortunately during a pandemic, the consequences are deadly.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like Ron DeSantis cares.
Thomas Kennedy is an elected Democratic National Committee member representing Florida. Twitter: @tomaskenn.