The GOP governor has fought schools to stop mask mandates, even as cases and deaths soar
Echoing Donald Trump, who frequently argued extensive Covid testing “makes us look bad,” Florida governor Ron DeSantis has argued that his state’s surge in Covid numbers among young people was actually over-representingthe problem because of widespread testing.
“As the whole back to school stuff and some of that testing goes, I actually think it’s going down in school-age kids, it’s just that they’re testing so much that the numbers are being held, but the percent positive I do think is going down,” the Republican governor and Trump loyalist said at a press conference on Monday.
The Independent has reached out to Mr DeSantis for comment.
According to the Florida Department of Health’s most recent data update, which does not include testing numbers, cases have been rising among children aged 12 to 19 since June, and the state is by all indications experiencing an unprecedented, Delta-fuelled wave of the coronavirus.
Mr Trump repeatedly made the argument that more Covid testing would “create” more coronavirus cases in official data, even though public health officials argue this is false and discredits a vital tool in pandemic response.
Last week, children and teenagers had a higher Covid positivity rate of any age group in Florida, with people younger than 19 making up a quarter of infections. Over the weekend, Florida had the highest hospitalisation rate in the country, and the state’s average death total has now reached heights not seen during any other period of the pandemic, even before vaccines were widely available. The state’s mortality rate for young people has also been increasing since June.
The state has made a major push to vaccinate the most vulnerable populations, like seniors, but the governor’s office has gone to war with local authorities and school administrators over measures like mask mandates.
On Friday, a judge ruled that the state can’t go forward with its policy to ban local mask mandates, finding that it violates Florida’s constitutional guarantees to safeguarding children. The governor and Education Department said on Monday they plan to appeal.
Public health officials have criticised how the state has handled getting children back to school without rules around masking.
“When you try to get mandating of masks, there’s pushback from certain authorities, which I feel is really unfortunate because it’s going to really endanger the health of the children when we do that,” Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told NBC News’Meet the Press on Sunday.
Morgues and crematories are becoming full, and cities in Florida have been asking residents to conserve water so liquid oxygen used in water treatment can be spared for hospitals.