ORLANDO — Ahead of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ keynote speech at the Florida Chamber of Commerce’s “Annual Meeting and Future of Florida Forum” today, Florida physicians gathered virtually yesterday to criticize his COVID-19 response for its past failures and future threats to lives and livelihoods. The doctors urged him to change course and allow schools, local communities and businesses to implement safety measures such as mask and vaccine requirements, which he has prohibited.
“While Governor DeSantis is trying to sell his vision for Florida’s future, physicians remain as concerned as ever that that future contains many more preventable deaths and despair for families across our state,” said Dr. Frederick Southwick, an infectious disease specialist in Gainesville and member of the Committee to Protect Health Care. “As doctors, we continue to witness firsthand every day how hundreds of thousands of Florida families suffer because Gov. DeSantis has chosen to put politics ahead of health and well-being. If Gov. DeSantis continues on his path of opposing proven, safe and effective safety measures such as mask and vaccine requirements, COVID-19 could return with a vengeance as we approach the holiday season and have large group gatherings. Instead, Gov. DeSantis can help us prevent holiday celebrations from spreading the virus and taking more lives, by encouraging everyone to take the vaccine and wear masks.”
This week, Florida’s death toll from COVID-19 neared 59,000. More than 4 million Floridians have been infected and sickened by COVID-19.
“As a physician and survivor myself of COVID-19, I am absolutely shocked to hear the Florida Chamber claim that DeSantis’ leadership kept Floridians safe and protected vulnerable populations, because that couldn’t be further from the truth,” said Dr. Jennifer Zimmerman, a pediatrician in the Pensacola area and member of the Committee to Protect Health Care. “Tens of thousands of our patients, neighbors, and loved ones didn’t make it, and so many are dealing with awful, long-term symptoms from COVID-19. I am living proof of one of the long-haulers. Many are unable to work and provide for their families. Kids are left without parents, and even sickened themselves in classrooms without mask requirements, thanks to our governor. So once again, to prevent more unnecessary loss of life, we ask the governor to listen to us, the doctors and parents, and support effective safety measures to keep kids and families alike safe.”
Nearly 3,000 children ages 11 years old and younger tested positive for COVID-19 between Oct. 8-14, and the per capita caseload for children 12 and younger in Florida in early October was higher than at any other point in the pandemic.
In July, DeSantis signed an order that prohibits local school districts from implementing COVID-19 safeguards such as requiring masks, and cutting funds for those that do. DeSantis also prohibits vaccination requirements in schools. He has also called on the Legislature to ban employers from requiring employees to be vaccinated. Meanwhile, data shows that Florida’s most recent summer surge was its deadliest, and when hospitalizations of children increased tenfold.
“Physicians and health experts across Florida have called on Gov. Ron DeSantis repeatedly to do the bare minimum to rein in COVID-19 so we can ultimately see an end to this pandemic, and instead, he opened the floodgates for the virus,” said Dr. Mona Mangat, an immunologist in St. Petersburg and member of the Committee to Protect Health Care. “Gov. DeSantis shouldn’t be an example for any other state leader who wants their constituents to live and be healthy and thrive. Unfortunately, he’s only been doubling down on his tactics by choosing a nominee for surgeon general who seems to disregard science and the opinions of the vast majority of health experts. But we have a roadmap for keeping our schools and businesses open safely so we can work, learn, and enjoy Florida’s amenities without spreading infections. By getting more people protected with vaccinations and more widespread mask use, Florida can have a bright future where we won’t have to choose between businesses and people’s lives.”
About the Committee to Protect Health Care
The Committee to Protect Health Care, formerly known as the Committee to Protect Medicare, is a national mobilization of doctors, health care professionals, and advocates who are building a pro-patient health care majority in Congress and in states so that we can live in an America where everyone has the health care they need to thrive. To learn more: www.committeetoprotect.org