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Washington Post calls out Gov. DeSantis' handling of the pandemic in blistering report

This weekend Fla. surpassed NY in the total number of cases
Washington Post calls out Gov. DeSantis' handling of the pandemic in blistering report
Posted at 10:17 AM, Jul 28, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-28 10:17:18-04

This weekend Florida surpassed New York in the number of total coronavirus cases. The Sunshine State is now only second to California. One of the nation's largest papers, the Washington Post, published a blistering report calling out Governor Ron DeSantis.

Its headline reads: 'Coronavirus ravaged Florida, as Ron DeSantis sidelined scientists and followed Trump.'

It details DeSantis ignored scientists and instead mirrored President Trump’s denials on the seriousness of the virus.

Doctor Charles Lockwood, Senior Vice President at the University of South Florida Health, spoke with the paper. He also spoke with ABC Action News.

“I think there was a little bit of boasting by many people in Florida compared to New York, Connecticut and New Jersey," he said.

When we asked if he was referring to the governor, who publicly boasted about his state's numbers early in the pandemic, Dr. Lockwood said, "Well, a lot of politicians. We probably should have been a little more humble.”

Dr. Lockwood believes the governor deserves some credit.

“Does he get an A? No. Does he get an F? No," he said.

He says the governor deserves praise in certain areas of success in the state's battle against the virus.

“Our state, as hard hit as it’s been, [has] one of the best case fatalities in the world. That’s not too shabby.”

Lockwood also touts increased coronavirus testing in the state, more PPE and the governor securing thousands of vials of Remdesivir, an antiviral that shows early signs of helping treat those sick with COVID-19.

The Washington Post article quotes sources who say the governor is relying mostly on the advice of his wife and his chief of staff.

"Decision-making became increasingly shaped by politics and divorced from scientific evidence," wrote the paper citing interviews with 64 current and former state and administration officials.

Another area of contention is the governor's schedule. It shows he’s met once this month with his surgeon general, Dr. Scott Rivkees. ABC Action News reached out to the Governor's office for comment but haven't heard back.

Just in the last week, Governor DeSantis met with President Trump at the White House to talk about COVID-19 in Florida. Monday, the governor attended a roundtable in Miami with Vice President Mike Pence for an update on vaccine trials.

The Washington Post article outlines health experts who say their advice to improve coronavirus care and tracking has been ignored by the state. Lockwood says his own recommendations to improve contact tracing went no-where locally and state-wide.

We reached out to the Department of Health in Hillsborough County to get their response to the Washington Post article and they sent us the following statement:

"Florida’s public health system benefits from operating as an integrated public health system. This integration allows the Department to respond to potential public health threats using a coordinated and standardized approach, directing resources and personnel where they are most needed.

DOH-Hillsborough’s administrators work closely with DOH leadership as well as local officials to ensure that sufficient resources are available based on current operational need and that the best practices and solutions are being implemented in Hillsborough County to more effectively fight the virus." — Kevin Watler Public Information Officer for the Florida Department of Health in Hillsborough County

Monday, the Mayor of Miami Beach wrote a letter to the governor blasting the state contact tracing program. Mayor Dan Gelber said the state's contact tracing program in Miami-Dade County is "unprepared to meet the challenges of this pandemic" and urged DeSantis "to take immediate action to expand its capacity and improve its competencies."

“We’re going to be in this until we have a vaccine and we have herd immunity so it is a marathon, not a sprint," said Lockwood.

Johns Hopkins Center for Systems Science and Engineering