Ron Desantis. Picture: WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
Ron Desantis. Picture: WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

For months we implored Florida governor Ron DeSantis to put a protective mask on the smiley face he continues to flaunt as the state’s coronavirus cases reach the stratosphere.

He could mandate face masks. He could credibly threaten another lockdown. The number of cases is soaring, but no dice. He’s blamed Hispanic farmworkers. He’s blamed low-income residents. He owes both an apology, for they are the essential workers who let the rest of us stay home.

His dereliction has got national attention, as most things Florida do. The headlines tell the most infuriating of stories. So, maybe he’ll listen to them: “Florida man leads his state to the morgue” read one such headline. Chilling, yes, but we can’t say it’s off base. Not when cases of the coronavirus are surging among a younger and likely healthier demographic this time. After all, it’s already rampaged through nursing homes, aided and abetted by the state’s late-to-the-game response to protect elderly residents, content, instead, to conceal the facilities where Covid-19 was found.

Florida business regulators shut down a web portal launched to make it easier for the public to file complaints about businesses that violate Covid-19 guidelines last month, just as cases statewide started to surge. A spokesperson said the agency eliminated the portal because complaints had dwindled. Turns out that was fake news; the department’s own records show the number of complaints doubled from April to May.

Of course, “no news” can make you sick. “No news” can kill you. But it’s all in keeping with the governor’s push to get back to normal as quickly as possible, despite medical experts’ warnings of the imperative for people to wear face masks if a second arrival of the coronavirus is going to be a gentle wave, and not a tsunami.

Rebekah Jones, a geographic information systems manager at Florida’s department of health, produced a Covid-19 data and surveillance “dashboard”, which provides researchers and the public a real-time look at the state’s coronavirus caseload. But the numbers got too real, apparently. Jones said her bosses told her, in effect, to fudge the numbers. She went public with this contention and was fired. /Miami, June 25

Miami Herald