I wish I lived in Massachusetts during this pandemic

I+wish+I+lived+in+Massachusetts+during+this+pandemic

Courtesy of DonkeyHotey on Flickr

I don’t live in Massachusetts outside of the academic year, but during this pandemic, I sure wish I did. 

My hometown is Jacksonville, Fla. While Florida does not have as many cases of COVID-19 as Massachusetts, the pandemic has been handled carelessly in my home state.

Ron DeSantis has an important job — leading the state of Florida as governor. But since taking office in January of 2019, each passing day demonstrates his glaring ineptitude and ignorance.

His latest misstep has been his response to the COVID-19 crisis.

The mismanagement of the crisis can be seen during a COVID-19 briefing on May 13, where DeSantis said professional sports teams from other states can practice in Florida. According to News4JAX, he said if a team is from a state that still does not allow sports teams to practice, “we’ll find a place for you here in the state of Florida.” 

What’s most striking is that he said, “I think we can certainly do it in a way that’s been safe.”

DeSantis has no expertise in infectious disease, so making this claim was bold. His COVID-19 task force consists of 22 members, only one of which is a doctor.

According to the 2019 Census, 20.5% of Florida’s population is 65 or older. This state’s population is second only to Maine’s, in which 20.6% of the population is over 65. According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), this age group is most at risk for developing serious or fatal cases of COVID-19. Hosting sports teams from states that potentially have higher rates of COVID-19 puts this population at an even greater risk.

In addition, DeSantis  never ordered Floridians to wear cloth face coverings when they can’t socially distance themselves from others. He also waited until April 1 to issue a 30-day stay-at-home order. By then, Florida had over 6,700 cases.

Living in Florida, I see firsthand the results of the governor’s carelessness. I have only left my house to pick up household necessities. The roads are still dense with traffic and parking lots are packed. At most, a quarter of the people I see in public are wearing some sort of face covering. Stronger leadership here would have made a difference.

DeSantis’s COVID-19 response isn’t the first time he missed the mark. Last June, he gave a proclamation to honor the 49 people killed in the June 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando. But he did not once acknowledge the LGBTQ or Hispanic communities, even though these two groups were targeted during the mass shooting that, at the time, was the deadliest in American history.

In 2018, then-governor Rick Scott acknowledged the LGBTQ community when he gave an address in memory of the victims.

According to the Tampa Bay Times, DeSantis released a “corrected” proclamation after facing backlash from Rep. Anna Eskamani of Orlando. DeSantis claimed that he meant to mention the LGBTQ and Hispanic communities. Yet, he originally signed a proclamation that did not mention either of them.

What’s more, in one of his first actions as governor in January 2019, DeSantis signed a state-wide non-discrimination order. This order does not protect individuals based on sexual orientation or gender identity, depriving LGBTQ Floridians of the reassurance that they cannot legally be discriminated against.

Even after the Pulse nightclub shooting, and the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting that resulted in the death of 17 victims in February 2018, DeSantis still opposes gun control legislation. He criticized gun control legislation signed by then-governor Scott that raised the minimum age to purchase a gun from 18 to 21, banned the sale of bump stocks and set a three-day waiting period for purchasing firearms.

DeSantis’s statements and actions regarding COVID-19 have been ill-informed and dangerous and it is clear that his actions have not been in the best interest of all Floridians long before this pandemic hit.

He mentioned the LGBTQ and Hispanic communities in a proclamation only after being called out. He purposely does not ensure LGBTQ Floridians’ legal protection from discrimination. He refuses to enact legislation that could curb gun violence in a state where mass shootings almost feel routine. 

DeSantis is not leading Florida on a healthy or equality-driven track. In fact, he is not leading Florida at all.