Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks to the media

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks to the media on July 3, 2021 in Surfside, Florida. (Photo: Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

DeSantis Under Fire as Florida Now Accounts for 1 in 5 New US Covid Cases

"While hospitals in our state were filling up, DeSantis was shouting about 'Freedom over Faucism,'" said one Florida physician.

Jake Johnson

The state of Florida now accounts for one in five new coronavirus infections in the United States, making it the nation's most alarming hot spot as the highly transmissible Delta strain rips through undervaccinated communities and drives a surge in hospitalizations.

According to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Florida has recorded 73,181 new Covid-19 cases over the past week, the most in the country. Florida also logged the most coronavirus deaths of any U.S. state in the last seven days—319—and hospitalizations are spiking, prompting dire warnings from physicians and calls for public safety measures to stop the spread.

But Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican and likely 2024 presidential candidate, has recently taken to mocking such measures; earlier this month, the governor's team launched a new merchandise line that includes a koozie with the quote, "How the hell am I going to be able to drink a beer with a mask on?"

Other items take aim at Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a frequent target of right-wing ire. "Don't Fauci My Florida," declares a shirt selling for $21 on a DeSantis campaign website.

While DeSantis has publicly stressed the importance of vaccination in recent days, Florida physicians have attributed the surge in infections, hospitalizations, and deaths in the state to the governor's rush to end public health restrictions.

"While hospitals in our state were filling up, DeSantis was shouting about 'Freedom over Faucism,'" said Bernard Ashby, a Miami-based cardiologist and head of the of the Florida chapter of the Committee to Protect Health Care. "If DeSantis were as concerned about stopping Covid-19 spread as he was about coming up with these clever jabs about Dr. Fauci, we might not be in this position."

As the Wall Street Journal reported Sunday, epidemiologists argue that "various factors" are behind the Florida crisis, including: "large numbers of unvaccinated people, a relaxation of preventive measures like mask-wearing and social distancing, the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus, and the congregation of people indoors during hot summer months."

Chad Neilsen, director of accreditation and infection prevention at the University of Florida Health Jacksonville, told the Journal that hospitalizations are surging at a rate "we have not seen before ever." Data collected by Florida epidemiologists shows that recent hospital patients have been skewing younger, with more than half under the age of 60.

"It really has been unbelievable," said Neilsen.

In a scathing editorial last week, the Orlando Sentinel accused DeSantis of prioritizing his presidential aspirations over Florida's pandemic response.

"Florida was all over the news this past weekend with one of the nation's biggest spikes in Covid cases and hospitalizations," the editorial reads. "And where was Gov. Ron DeSantis as this health crisis resurged? Visiting hospitals? Consulting with physicians and public health experts? Huddling with his staff to brainstorm ways of persuading more Floridians to take the vaccine that would nip this pandemic in the bud?"

"Nope. Florida's governor was in Texas, 1,000 miles from Tallahassee, burnishing his 2024 presidential ambitions with a visit to the southern border," the article continues. "The governor was back in Florida on Sunday but, once again, not to focus on the Covid health crisis but this time to make fun of Anthony Fauci in a speech before a crowd of young conservatives in Tampa... And every few days, nearly as many people are dying from Covid as died in the recent collapse of a condominium in South Florida."

Florida's coronavirus surge comes in the context of a nationwide jump in infections that has federal officials worried about another devastating wave as vaccination rates slow and governments relax—and, in the case of Florida and other Republican-led states, aim to actively prohibit—public health requirements such as mask-wearing indoors.

The New York Times reported over the weekend that "hospitalizations have increased in 45 states, Washington D.C., and Puerto Rico over the past two weeks."

"The only states where they have gone down are Maryland, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Vermont," the Times noted. "Florida, Missouri, and Texas account for about 34% of all new cases nationwide. Greene County in southwestern Missouri reported 259 Covid-19 hospitalizations on Tuesday, up from a previous high of 237 on December 1. By Wednesday, that number was 265."

In an appearance on CNN Sunday morning, Fauci warned that the U.S. is "going in the wrong direction."

"This is an issue predominantly among the unvaccinated," said Fauci, "which is the reason why we're out there practically pleading with the unvaccinated people to go out and get vaccinated."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

'Infuriating Disappointment': Biden DHS Ramping Up Deportations to Haiti

"It is unconscionable for the Biden administration to resume deportation flights to Haiti, despite the country's ongoing political, economic, and environmental disasters."

Jessica Corbett ·


Architect of Texas Abortion Ban Takes Aim at LGBTQ+ Rights While Urging Reversal of Roe

"Make no mistake, the goal is to force extreme, outdated, religious-driven values on all of us through the courts."

Jessica Corbett ·


Ahead of Canadian Election, Bernie Sanders and Rashida Tlaib Endorse NDP

"Bernie, you have fought courageously for public healthcare, affordable medication, making the rich pay their fair share, and tackling the climate crisis," said party leader Jagmeet Singh. "We're doing the same here."

Jessica Corbett ·


US Urged to End Drone Strikes After Pentagon Says Killing 10 Afghan Civilians Was 'Horrible Mistake'

"That was not a 'mistake,'" said journalist Anand Giridharadas. "War crimes are not oopsies."

Brett Wilkins ·


40+ NYC Activists Arrested for Protests Against Banks Fueling Climate Emergency

"We're sending a message loud and clear that the little action that politicians and greenwashing CEOs have taken so far does not begin to deal with the magnitude of this crisis."

Jessica Corbett ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo