Florida Gov. DeSantis rules out mask mandates, shutdowns despite COVID surge

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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is pledging that he will not shut down businesses in the Sunshine state or impose mask mandates, predicting that the surge of coronavirus cases is a seasonal outbreak — and adding that lockdowns “have failed time and time again throughout this pandemic.”

“We are not shutting down,” DeSantis, a Republican, said during a news conference ​in Miami ​on Tuesday.  

“We are going to have schools open. We are protecting every Floridian’s job in this state. We are protecting people’s small businesses. These interventions have failed time and time again throughout this pandemic, not just in the United States,” he said.

Driven by the highly contagious Delta variant, ​Florida hit 11,515 hospitalized patients on Tuesday, breaking last year’s record for the third straight day and up from 1,000 in June. 

Slightly more than 49 percent of Floridians are fully vaccinated. 

The governor said the hospitalizations will fall off in the coming weeks, attributing the spike in cases to state residents spending more time indoors to escape the summer’s heat and humidity. 

He also noted that fewer people are dying from COVID now compared to last year because of the success in getting the state’s elderly population vaccinated. 

“Even among a lot of positive tests, you are seeing much less mortality tha​n​ you did year-over-year,” DeSantis said​.​ “Would I rather have 5,000 cases among 20-year-olds or 500 cases among seniors? I would rather have the younger.” ​

He blasted the media for creating “hysteria” by focusing on case counts, saying they “fear monger.”

He said he fears that media reports will discourage people who have serious ailments to go to the hospital for treatment.

“I don’t want to see a repeat — because of some of the media hysteria — where people who have heart problems or stroke are not going in to get care​,” he said.​

Meanwhile, President Biden ​on Tuesday blamed DeSantis and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott for blocking mask mandates and not taking the necessary precautions for the new influx of coronavirus cases. 

Biden said the coronavirus is a “national challenge” and called on all Americans to come together as a country “to solve it.”

“Just two states, Florida and Texas, account for one third of all new COVID-19 cases in the entire country. Just two states. Look, we need leadership from everyone. And if some governors aren’t willing to do the right thing to beat this pandemic, then they should allow businesses and universities who want to do the right thing to be able to do it,” he said.  

“​I say to these governors, ​’​Please, help.​’​  But if you aren’t going to help, at least get out of the way of the people who are trying to do the right thing.​ ​Use your power to save lives​,” Biden said. ​

Last week, DeSantis signed an executive order threatening to withhold state funds from school districts that enact mask mandates. 

Coronavirus cases are up 128 percent in Florida and the number of hospitalizations have increased by 121 percent, according to the 14-day average compiled by the New York Times COVID database.

With Post wires

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