Last Wednesday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s administration advised residents in his state under the age of 65 to not get the newly approved COVID-19 booster. It was only days later that new data came in: It showed Florida ranked number one in the country for coronavirus-related hospitalizations.
DeSantis’s campaign for president has played up his handling of the pandemic as bucking liberal orthodoxy for the good of the state. He championed faster reopenings and appointed Dr. Joseph Lapado, a “vaccine skeptic,” as the Florida’s surgeon general.
Last week, Lapado, who earlier this year altered data to disprove the COVID-19 vaccine’s efficacy, claimed that the new booster shots potentially posed a risk to young people, a notion that studies have not backed up. “With the amount of immunity that’s in the community—with virtually every walking human being having some degree of immunity—and with the questions we have about safety and about effectiveness, especially about safety, my judgment is that it’s not a good decision [to take the new booster] for young people and for people who are not at high risk at this point in the pandemic,” said Lapado during a roundtable hosted by DeSantis on September 13.
Recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported a national rise in COVID-19 hospitalizations, with a significant uptick in parts of Florida. On the week of September 9, an estimated 2,280 people had been hospitalized with COVID-related issues. Despite these alarming numbers, DeSantis has stood behind Lapado’s comments, claiming the CDC is using Floridians as “guinea pigs” for the COVID-19 booster.
Unfortunately, none of this is new for Lapado or DeSantis. My colleague Kiera Butler has extensively documented the governor’s war against COVID-19 safety precautions to help further his own political career, often to the detriment of his constituents’ health. In 2022, Butler wrote:
In July, I watched DeSantis speak at the annual conference of Moms for Liberty, a rapidly-growing parents’ rights group founded by two former school-board members in Florida. DeSantis bragged about how his administration had pushed back on the federal recommendation that the youngest children be vaccinated against Covid because they believed that immunity acquired from having contracted the virus was superior to the shot…Yet even as DeSantis crows about his Covid success, his state is reeling from the pandemic’s ravages. More than 82,000 Floridians have died of Covid—the third-highest death toll in the country, behind the more populous states of California and Texas. And while DeSantis is favored to be reelected as governor, the Republican presidential primary is anything but a sure bet.