DeSantis downplays increase in COVID-19 cases

ORLANDO, Fla. – Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) on Monday downplayed the recent spike in coronavirus cases in his state, and criticized public health officials who continue to push unvaccinated Americans to get COVID-19 shots.

“It’s a seasonal virus and this is the seasonal pattern it follows in the Sun Belt states,” DeSantis told reporters at a press conference. He also said that he expects COVID-19 cases to decline next month. 

DeSantis’s remarks came as new cases of COVID-19 are on the rise, driven by the spread of the more infectious delta variant. Florida has emerged as the epicenter of the recent surge, with about one in five new cases nationwide coming from the Sunshine State.

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Despite the spike in cases, DeSantis has leaned into the same laissez faire approach to the coronavirus pandemic that has earned him praise from conservatives over the past year. His handling of the outbreak has earned him rising-star status among many Republicans, while fueling speculation of a potential 2024 presidential bid.

His reelection campaign recently released a line of merchandise taking aim at Anthony FauciAnthony FauciSunday shows preview: Coronavirus dominates as country struggles with delta variant Journalist Zaid Jilani describes removal of animal rights ad that criticizes Fauci Watch live: White House COVID-19 response team holds briefing MORE, the federal government’s top infectious disease expert who has become the face of the national response to the pandemic.

On Monday, DeSantis blamed public health experts for spreading what he called “misinformation” and offering “bad advice” with regard to the pandemic. He also suggested that the same experts were undermining their own vaccine initiatives by talking down to people who have yet to get one of the three approved COVID-19 vaccines. 

“I do not agree with some of these people, some of these quote unquote experts who lambast people and criticize them or say they’re stupid or something,” DeSantis said. “That’s not the way to reach folks, OK?”

DeSantis’s office confirmed in April that the governor had received the single-dose vaccine manufactured by Johnson & Johnson. And on Monday, Chris Spencer, DeSantis’s director of policy and budget, announced that he had gotten his second dose of the Pfizer vaccine, and encouraged others to get vaccinated, as well. 

Despite his criticism of public health officials on Monday, DeSantis also touted the efficacy of the available COVID-19 vaccines, saying that they have proved effective at preventing severe illness and hospitalization. 

"Understand, a positive test is not a clinical diagnosis of illness and so if you're vaccinated and you test positive but you don't get sick, well the name of the game is to keep people out of the hospital,” he said.