Fla. Dems. Call on Gov. DeSantis to Confront Surge in COVID-19 Cases
As the State of Florida continues to break records with the number and rate of daily confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus, today members of the Florida Congressional Delegation called on Governor DeSantis to confront this dangerous reality, rather than making excuses, by taking action to reverse this trend and keep Floridians safe.
The letter was signed by U.S. Representatives Ted Deutch (FL-22), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL-23), Alcee Hastings (FL-20), Lois Frankel (FL-21), Darren Soto (FL-09), Donna Shalala (FL-27), Val Demings (FL-10), Frederica Wilson (FL-24), Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (FL-26), and Charlie Crist (FL-13).
"It is true that Florida fared better than many other states early in the pandemic," the Representatives wrote. "But it appears that the state did not use the past three months to prepare for this moment."
The Members of Congress urged Governor DeSantis to prepare the state for increases in hospitalizations and do everything necessary to save lives. Specifically, the members requested he convene the first meeting with the state congressional delegation since the crisis began and maintain regular communication throughout the response.
"With cases spiking in our state, we are certain that more relief will be necessary and hope to work closely with you to ensure that our communities have the resources they need to care for COVID-19 patients, prevent outbreaks, and ease the economic toll on businesses and families."
This letter is a follow-up to a May 8, 2020 letter to Governor DeSantis in which Members of Congress raised “grave concerns” with the plan to reopen Florida and urged him to prioritize the health and safety of the state’s residents.
Click here to access the letter in PDF. The text of the letter is below.
Dear Governor DeSantis:
We write to follow up on our letter dated May 8, 2020 raising grave concerns about your response to the COVID-19 epidemic in Florida. In the 42 days since that letter you have repeatedly ignored warning signs of resurgent COVID-19 outbreaks. You have chosen to make excuses rather than confront the reality that the new coronavirus is spreading in Florida communities and continues to put the health, financial security, and lives of our constituents at risk.
In May, the state reported more than 1,000 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 in only three days. In the first two weeks of June, the state reported over 1,000 cases every day except for the first day of the month. This week, we have broken the record for new cases multiple times. The seven-day average is now 2,682 new cases.
As cases have increased, you have pointed to several excuses to explain this grim trend rather than taking action to turn it around and save lives. You’ve defended your position by hiding behind the positivity rate of new cases and the increase in testing. But as cases have spiked this week, so has the positivity rate. Two out of the last three days have had a rate above 10 percent. The World Health Organization recommends a positivity rate under five percent for 14 days before governments considering reopening. Yet, in response to rising cases and rising positivity you have said that you will not “roll back” plans to reopen.
While we do not want to see businesses forced to close again, we believe that public health should lead the response. As you said in your April 29, 2020 address, “If we're making progress, we need to continue to put people back to work in a safe, smart and step-by-step way but it's going to be data driven.” If we ignore the data, businesses will be forced to close not because of a government order, but to keep their customers and staff safe, as we are already seeing in some areas of the state. Too many people do not fully understand why reopening does not means it is safe to return to their normal lives. Rather than providing clarity and helping Floridians understand what we all must do to keep one another safe and repair our economy, our response has fallen into needless political battles. Unfortunately, even something as simple and effective as wearing a mask has now become politicized.
It is true that Florida faired better than many other states early in the pandemic. But it appears that the state did not use the past three months to prepare for this moment. Instead of charting a course for Florida to suppress rebound outbreaks you have yelled at the media for raising concerns about data fidelity and transparency, blamed “overwhelmingly Hispanic” farmworkers for new cases in agricultural communities, blamed increasing spikes on young people who you have ordered back to school in August, and even blamed unemployed Floridians and your predecessor for the failures of your Department of Economic Opportunity to help ease the economic toll of business closures. That energy should be refocused on preparing the state for increases in hospitalizations and doing everything we can to save lives.
As members of the U.S. House of Representatives, we want to be your partner in responding to this crisis. Many of us are your former colleagues, we know that you understand the importance of federal and state coordination. Yet, our requests for regular briefings from you and other state officials have gone unanswered. Today we ask that you convene your first meeting with Florida’s congressional delegation since the start of this crisis with the hopes of establishing regular communication as we continue to respond.
In March, we passed the Coronavirus, Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which included $8.3 billion to Florida through the Coronavirus Relief Fund. In addition to direct response funding, the federal government has provided more than $63.5 billion in total aid, including $11.3 billion for medical care and testing and $52.1 in economic relief. With cases spiking in our state, we are certain that more relief will be necessary and hope to work closely with you to ensure that our communities have the resources they need to care for COVID-19 patients, prevent outbreaks, and ease the economic toll on businesses and families.
At this critical moment, we continue to offer our full support as you work to protect the health and economic wellbeing of all Floridians. Please do not hesitate to call on us if we may be of assistance to you as we continue to develop legislation, exercise oversight of the federal response, and support our constituents through this crisis.