DeSantis will never do anything to offend Demented Daddy in DC

President Donald Trump and Gov. Ron DeSantis. Governor's office photo

One month after Florida got its first COVID-19 cases, two weeks after the governors of California and New York issued shelter-in-place orders, the governor of Florida finally shut the state down and told people to park their backsides at home and stay there.

But don’t blame DeSantis: he had to wait till Demented Daddy in DC gave him permission.

In related news, Donald Trump, has also given the governor permission to breathe, thus providing DeSantis’s poor brain with long-missed, much-needed oxygen.

State offices were allegedly closed three weeks ago, allegedly allowing state workers to telecommute. On March 12, DeSantis claimed he was “authorizing state agencies to maximize remote working,” while one of his aides said an executive order to that effect had been issued.

Funny thing, though: nobody could actually find that executive order.

Even funnier thing, many state workers have been forced to come into the office despite the official pontificating about “social distancing” to stay safe from the virus.

The Department of Management Services issued a directive suggesting staff self-isolate “after potential exposure, to stay home with children due to child care or school closures, and take time needed to take care of dependents like an elder parent.”

State staff just needs to use “accrued leave days.” Or vacation time. No avoiding a deadly contagion on the state’s dime, no sir!

Senate President Bill Galvano (the genius behind those environmentally disastrous toll roads) has granted his employees 80 hours of “emergency leave,” which sounds like a lot until you realize that’s only 10 business days in a global health crisis that will probably last for months.

And I’m sure it’s a great comfort to state workers to know that, though they are among the most over-stretched and lowest paid in the nation, thanks to previous Republican governors such as Jeb Bush and Rick Scott (who seemed to feel that public employees were expendable losers who couldn’t make it in the private sector rather than dedicated servants of Florida’s citizens), they are valued.

When the microphones are on, anyway. Ron DeSantis recently declared, “The state has a workforce of over 90,000 individuals whose health and well-being are a priority.”

The governor says he’s big on health and well-being.

So his refusal to close Florida’s beaches during Spring Break is a bit puzzling. A surprisingly large number of brew-addled college students from all over the nation stuffed themselves into a surprisingly small number of hotel rooms (six or eight to a hutch) to cavort on the sands in Clearwater, Seaside, Lauderdale, Santa Rosa, Key West and pretty well every other habitable foot of shoreline.

Most of them couldn’t spell “social distancing,” much less practice it.

Which might explain why, once they launched their sunburnt selves back to Ann Arbor or Urbana or Tuscaloosa or Madison, they spread coronavirus like a strong wind spreads dandelion seeds.

Governor, I think I speak for all of America when I say, What The Hell is Wrong With You?

Florida beaches still aren’t all closed: this now-famous photo of the beach in Duval County (closed) right next to the one in St. Johns County (open and teeming with bodies) amply demonstrates the spectacular boneheadedness of letting every locality decide for itself.

St. Johns has now–finally–shut down the shore, but who knows how many little virus vectors will result from the delay, how many put in the hospital, how many dead.

“Essential businesses” are still open, too. Grocery stores, yes, gas stations, clinics, but also gun shops. Essential! And churches. Under the governor’s decree, houses of worship can do whatever they like as long as they, you know, kind of try that six feet apart thing — if they feel like it.

That money-grubbing megachurch preacher in Tampa who bused in congregants the other Sunday and got busted for Utter Idiocy by the Hillsborough County sheriff? He might be able to preside over a packed-out Easter service with impunity, filling those collection plates once again.

Turns out, DeSantis quietly signed an executive order that overrides the far stricter stay-at-home rules imposed by Florida’s cities and counties. local and county bans on gatherings.

DeSantis genuflects to the Religious Right and Big Bidness in the form of the Chamber of Commerce and Associated Industries of Florida.

They’re all happy to deny science or sacrifice any number of human lives to serve Mammon.

Surely cash beats COVID-19?

And DeSantis will never do anything to offend Demented Daddy in DC, who fears a bad economy might hurt his reelection chances.

You can bet your life on that.

Diane Roberts
Diane Roberts is an 8th-generation Floridian, born and bred in Tallahassee, which probably explains her unhealthy fascination with Florida politics. Educated at Florida State University and Oxford University in England, she has been writing for newspapers since 1983, when she began producing columns on the legislature for the Florida Flambeau. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, the Times of London, the Guardian, the Washington Post, the Oxford American, and Flamingo. She has been a member of the Editorial Board of the St. Petersburg Times–back when that was the Tampa Bay Times’s name–and a long-time columnist for the paper in both its iterations. She was a commentator on NPR for 22 years and continues to contribute radio essays and opinion pieces to the BBC. Roberts is also the author of four books, most recently Dream State, an historical memoir of her Florida family, and Tribal: College Football and the Secret Heart of America. She lives in Tallahassee, except for the times she runs off to Great Britain, desperate for a different government to satirize.