Democratic members of Congress represent some areas of Florida hit hardest by COVID-19, but they contend they’ve been left out of the loop on state efforts to slow the spread of the deadly disease.
In a Zoom conference call on Tuesday, several Democrats repeatedly said Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis and his office have refused to talk or make agency heads available to them.
Congresswoman Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, who represents part of Miami-Dade County and Monroe County, called it “frustrating” trying to work with the office and that she hasn’t been able to get “clear and straight” information.
Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Broward County added, “I wouldn’t expect him to be getting on a call with us all the time. But they won’t put anyone on a call with us. I don’t need to talk to the governor. I just need him to do his job. But we do have a need to interact with his agency heads because we’re trying to troubleshoot things for our constituents and be able to make sure we can get the information out to them.”
Miami-Dade and Broward by far top the state in cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
DeSantis’ office didn’t reply to a request for comment. But if it’s any comfort to the Democrats, DeSantis’ published daily calendars indicate he also hasn’t been talking a lot with Republican members of the congressional delegation.
From March 1, when DeSantis directed state Surgeon General Scott Rivkees to declare a public health emergency, through Wednesday, DeSantis’ published calendars listed just four calls with three members of the delegation.
DeSantis talked with U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio on March 17 and Tuesday, Congressman Matt Gaetz on March 27, and Congressman Michael Waltz on March 28. All are Republicans.
In the same time, DeSantis had 30 calls involving mayors and local-government managers and administrators and 22 with individual sheriffs, the Florida Sheriffs Association or the Florida Police Chiefs Association.
DeSantis has been on the line with President Donald Trump six times and Vice President Mike Pence eight times. DeSantis has also had four calls with Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp.
DeSantis also held 31 news conferences or “livestream” briefings, mostly from Tallahassee, but also from Miami, Miami-Gardens, Pembroke Pines, The Villages, Orlando, Tampa and West Palm Beach. He had five interviews on Fox News.
IF IT’S NOT ONE THING …
Rubio and fellow U.S. Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., want coronavirus-protection guidelines for the six-month hurricane season, which begins June 1.
In a letter to Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Peter Gaynor, Florida’s senators want to know how Centers for Disease Control and Prevention social-distancing protocols can be carried out if hurricane shelters fill up and people rush out to buy storm supplies.
“It is our hope that the pandemic will quickly pass, but all points indicate we will be dealing with this virus for the foreseeable future,” the senators wrote. “In this new normal, our goal is to make sure that Floridians have their hurricane plans in place as soon as possible.”
HOW AM I DOING?
At least judging from a couple of polls, DeSantis apparently is doing better than the president in handling the pandemic.
But matched against his counterparts in other states, and in the eyes of pundits, DeSantis’ COVID-19 efforts have room to improve.
In a national Microsoft News poll, governors averaged 27 percentage points higher than Trump in how their responses to COVID-19 are viewed.
However, the spread between Trump and Florida’s governor is closer.
DeSantis received a 53 percent favorable rating in the Microsoft poll, tied with Missouri Gov. Mike Parson and 1 percentage point better than Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey. Trump had a 45 percent approval rating from Floridians.
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine and Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, both Republicans, were at the top of the list with approval ratings of 85 and 84 percent, respectively.
Meanwhile, a University of North Florida poll released Monday had DeSantis at 51 percent approval for his handling of the virus and 46 percent disapproval. Trump was at 45 percent approval, strongly or somewhat, and 53 percent disapproval.
The conservative website Breitbart touted the results for DeSantis, with a headline declaring; “Majority of Floridians Approve of Gov. Ron DeSantis’s Handling of Coronavirus.”
“The majority approval for DeSantis follows contentious weeks of critiques against the governor, whose critics say he waited too long to issue a statewide stay-at-home order,” Breitbart said. “From the onset, DeSantis advocated a more measured, ‘surgical’ approach to the pandemic threatening the state, leaving more aggressive measures to local officials. All the while, DeSantis took aggressive action against travelers from coronavirus hotspots, requiring a 14-day quarantine for those fleeing New York and Louisiana.”
But DeSantis also faces criticism, with The Economist labeling him as “Trump’s and the coronavirus’s favourite governor.”
An opinion piece in Politico Magazine by contributing editor Bill Scher said six governors were poised to break out and another six “risk serious damage to their political futures.” DeSantis topped the risk category.
“DeSantis is one of Trump’s favorite governors and a potential 2024 presidential prospect. But he has made a bad first impression on the rest of the country by failing to fully shut down Florida’s beaches before or after they were overrun with partiers on spring break, many of whom then traveled home to locations throughout the United States,” Scher wrote.
TWEET OF THE WEEK:
– Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation Secretary HalseyBeshears (@HalseyBeshears), urging Ultimate Fighting Championship events to be held in Florida instead of on a private island during the pandemic.
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