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Gov. DeSantis touts COVID success; activists paint a different picture

Published: Mar. 18, 2021 at 4:40 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CAPS NEWS/WCJB) - The Governor brought back some of his favorite public health experts for a round table touting the success of the state’s COVID policies Thursday.

The roundtable was full of many of familiar talking points.

“The lock downs have led to many, many unnecessary deaths,” said Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, a Professor of Medicine at Stanford University.

Also the importance of opening of schools.

“It is really unconscionable that there are any schools that are not in person,” said Dr. Scott Atlas, the Robert Wesson Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University and former Member of the US Coronavirus Task Force.

The Governor also emphasized Florida won’t endorse vaccine passports.

“People don’t have to worry about it here in the State of Florida and if folks try to start doing it privately, you know we may have a role to play there as well,” said Governor Ron DeSantis.

Related story: DeSantis: Florida will not receive Johnson & Johnson vaccine in foreseeable future

But there was a new critique of COVID policy lobbed during the meeting, with panelists questioning the effectiveness of masks.

“The people in the United States at a very high frequency have been wearing masks for months and the cases exploded,” said Atlas.

The Governor Shied away when we asked if he planned to lift all local mask orders.

“I think the proper role for public health is to give people information to provide some guidance, but ultimately individuals should be able to make their own decisions and I don’t think it should be compulsory and I don’t think certainly it should come under penalty from the state,” said DeSantis.

The Governor also touted the state’s vaccine rollout, but outside the Capitol, a coalition of social justice groups repeated criticisms that the black community hasn’t gotten its fair share.

“How come brown people didn’t get it just like the white people got it? Let me tell you something, they all need the vaccine,” said Dr. Tracey Stallworth with Faith in Florida.

Medical doctors also joined with social justice advocates outside the Capitol calling into question the Governor’s rosy picture painted of the COVID situation.

“Florida has no expansion of Medicaid. Our Government run unemployment system is a failure,” said Dr. Armen Henderson with the University of Miami. “The rich have been given access to vaccines at alarming rates in comparison the the rest of the Florida population.”

Social justice advocates also took numerous shots at the Legislature, which they say is spending too much time on the Governor’s social agenda and not enough on COVID relief.

Of the 4.4 million vaccine doses administered in Florida so far, 67.6 percent have gone to white Floridans, while only 6 percent have gone to Black Floridans.

An additional 15.4 percent of recipients did not report their race or ethnicity at all.

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