“You can’t kneecap your own society and think you’re going to successfully handle a pandemic,” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis told Fox News’ “Life, Liberty & Levin” in an interview airing Sunday night.
The Republican DeSantis has been harshly criticized by the mainstream media for his handling of COVID-19. The governor declined to issue a statewide face mask mandate and lifted restrictions on bars and movie theaters in early June. Last month, DeSantis lifted all state capacity restrictions on bars and restaurants.
“What we did, Mark, was really three things,” DeSantis told host Mark Levin. “One is protect those who are the most vulnerable to the disease, which is our elderly population, and focus that protection there rather than trying to suppress society as a whole. Second thing is, we want to make sure that our hospital system had what they needed in terms of PPE, medication, testing, and we were able to do that.
“But then third, and I think this is really important, we wanted society to function. You can’t burn down the village in order to save it … So if you look now, Florida’s open for business. We have everything — like theme parks, all that have been open for months. And we have kids in school in person. Parents have the option to opt for virtual [learning] if they want, but they have the in-person [option], which is very, very important.”
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As of Saturday, Florida (population: 21.5 million) had recorded 15,186 deaths from COVID-19, compared to 32,875 in New York state (population: 19.5 million).
“One of the things we did in the middle of March is we prohibited hospitals from discharging ill patients with coronavirus back into nursing homes because many of them were not equipped to handle that,” DeSantis explained. “And so what we did instead is we established a lot of COVID-only nursing units throughout the state. So if you had someone test positive in a nursing home, but they weren’t ill enough to need hospitalization, they had a safe place to be isolated in.”
DESANTIS: CLOSING SCHOOL IN SPRING MIGHT HAVE BEEN ONE OF NATION’S ‘BIGGEST PUBLIC HEALTH MISTAKES’
According to the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), 3,202 Florida nursing home residents had died of coronavirus as of Sept. 27. It’s unclear how many New York state nursing home residents have died of the illness because the state does not count residents who died in hospitals as part of the total. However, an Associated Press report from August suggested the number could go as high as 11,000.
“One of the problems that we had in terms of some of the restrictions with nursing homes was we stopped the visitation early on,” DeSantis recalled. “We didn’t want the disease to get in. I think most of the people wanted that done. But after months of this, you start to see loneliness and despair creep in … We brought visitation back into the nursing homes [in September]. And the odd thing is that since we’ve done that, the cases in the nursing homes have gone down dramatically. And I think part of the reason is because I think the staff performs better when the families are able to come in.”
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DeSantis went on to call opponents of reopening schools to in-person instruction “the flat-earthers of our day.”
“There’s no scientific basis at this point to not have in-person instruction,” the governor said. “We know that this is less dangerous for school-aged kids than seasonal influenza. We also know, for whatever reason, the school-aged kids are not significant vectors of spreading of the disease. Europe has studied this and they almost always find it’s the adults infecting the kids. And so from a public health perspective, shutting schools get you almost nothing in terms of dealing with COVID-19. But it causes catastrophic damage to the development of a lot of our youth.”