Republican star has made opposition to vaccine mandates part of his political brand
Mr DeSantis, whose handling of the pandemic has been a matter of national controversy since Covid-19 began to spread in earnest, has not held a public briefing since 17 December.
In that time, Florida’s seven-day average of daily infections has gone from 8,785 to 30,356, a sharp uptick driven by the highly infectious Omicron variant. Hospitalisations are at their highest rate since mid-September, when the wave driven by the Delta variant was ebbing away, and cases are now rising at their fastest pace since the summer.
Mr DeSantis’s turn away from regular public appearances to discuss the pandemic has drawn fire from state officials, including Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings, who said this week that Florida residents “should be outraged” and “should ask the question, ‘Where is our state? Where is our governor? Where is Ron DeSantis now?’ When is the last time you saw the governor do a press briefing on Covid-19?”
The governor’s office has been contacted for comment.
While he has insisted he does not intend to run for president in 2024 and is instead focusing on re-election, the governor is polling well in fields of potential non-Trump candidates – partly thanks to his staunch opposition to many of the anti-Covid measures promoted and imposed by the federal government.
Mr DeSantis has this year steadily ramped up his opposition to masking requirements and in particular vaccine mandates, at one point selling merchandise via his campaign site emblazoned with the slogan “Don’t Fauci My Florida”. The state recently passed laws that limit private employers’ ability to require employees get vaccinated, leading major companies including Disney to pause their existing policies for fear of legal problems.
Mr DeSantis has lately focused on promoting monoclonal antibody treatments, again putting him at odds with the Biden administration as authorities examine whether the drugs are in question are in fact effective against the Delta and Omicron variants.