Defiant in the face of new federal mask recommendations, Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida on Friday signed new orders that will lead to more hospitalizations, disease, and death.
Mr. DeSantis, a Republican who has made freedom from Covid-19 restrictions a signature part of his administration, announced that he would sign an order “protecting the rights of parents” amid an intensifying national movement to control the pandemic, as a highly contagious Delta variant of the virus rips through the unvaccinated population.
“In Florida, there will be no lockdowns,” Mr. DeSantis said to cheers at a restaurant in Cape Coral, Florida. “There will be no school closures. There will be no restrictions and no mandates.”
The announcement came after Broward County, the second largest school district in Florida, voted this week to require masks in schools. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had also recommended that all students, teachers and employees wear masks, regardless of their vaccination status.
Mr. DeSantis called for a stop to school mask mandates and said that the decision should be in the hands of parents, not school or health officials. Of course, why should health decisions be in the hands of health officials, especially in the middle of the nation’s worst pandemic ever?
His order directed state agencies to ensure that school safety protocols do not interfere with parents’ rights to make health care decisions about their children and empowered the state commissioner of education to withhold state funding from school districts that do not comply.
What doesn’t make sense is that schools already require a multitude of vaccinations before students are allowed to enroll and attend. Suspending that requirement in the middle of a pandemic is idiotic, and shows a level of pandering to the dumbest of voters in a manner never before seen.
The issue of masking in schools is particularly potent in Florida, which is experiencing one of the fastest Covid-19 outbreaks in the country and where hospitals are once again filling up with coronavirus patients. In Jacksonville, hospitals have more Covid patients than ever before, despite the availability of vaccines.
Less than half of the Florida population is fully vaccinated, and children under 12 are not yet eligible for the vaccine.
DeSantis has become a rising star in the Republican party, mostly thanks to his forgoing of many of the COVID-19 restrictions other governors imposed. Donald Trump, the man to whom he has hitched his wagon, doesn’t appear ready to vacate the throne yet. But when it does come time to anoint a successor, there may well be chatter around the Florida governor.
But an early obstacle to DeSantis’ ambitions may be coming into view—namely, that he’s kind of a buffoon who is personally disliked by many who know and work for him.
Politico reported that former staffers have formed a support group of sorts to dish about the various indignities they endured working for DeSantis, most of which seem to involve the former congressman and current governor treating his aides like “garbage,” cycling through staff and advisers, and mostly relying on his own instincts and the advice of his wife, Casey DeSantis.
According to the ex-aides, DeSantis can be so distant from his staff that they apparently took to tricking him into attending meetings by telling him it’s someone’s birthday and putting out cupcakes.
On the one hand, the lack of intelligence DeSantis demonstrates would seem to be an impediment to his political rise. Then again, for the last four years Republicans have been led by a guy who couldn’t pay attention to briefings unless his name was sprinkled throughout them and had to be placated with ice cream. Given the Trump base, it’s possible—maybe even likely—that being a swaggering morom who follows his instincts and his sweet tooth will be seen as a plus, not a drawback.
In any case, DeSantis continued to endear himself to the MAGA faithful, signing a bill to roll back voting rights in his state during a segment on Fox & Friends surrounded by a cheering crowd from a Trump fan club in Palm Beach.