“He is causing more sickness and death without taking a leadership role that ensures that all non-essential businesses are closed around the state, that all beaches are closed around the state,” Wasserman Schultz said
‘Many people will die unnecessarily.’ Democrats assess Trump and DeSantis on coronavirus
By Anthony Man
Three members of Congress from South Florida — the epicenter of coronavirus in the state — sharply faulted Gov. Ron DeSantis and President Donald Trump on Monday for grossly inadequate responses that could lead increased deaths.
“Both of them are failing the test of leadership,” said U.S. Rep. Donna Shalala. “They’re much too timid, much too controlled by a failure to understand the depths of this crisis. And it’s not only putting people at risk, it’s about life and death. And if they don’t step up, many people will die unnecessarily.”
To be sure, there’s a political element. The members of Congress who spoke with reporters in a telephone conference call were all Democrats, the call was arranged by the Florida Democratic Party, and their targets are Republicans.
But the criticisms from Shalala, a former secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and U.S. Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a former chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, and Debbie Mucarsel-Powell were remarkably pointed.
Wasserman Schultz, who represents parts of Broward and Miami-Dade counties, described Trump’s briefings from the White House as “the president’s daily effort to lie the coronavirus into submission.”
About DeSantis, she said, “we have a governor who has been really irresponsible and has had an absence of leadership. I’m trying to think of the nicest way I can put it.”
Too many people “are still gathering, they’re still conducting business as usual,” said Mucarsel-Powell, who wants a Florida stay-at home order and enforcement of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations that people not congregate in groups larger than 10 people. Mucarsel-Powell represents parts of Miami-Dade and Monroe counties.
DeSantis has repeatedly said that it makes most sense to have the greatest restrictions in places like South Florida, where more than half the state’s coronavirus cases are located. As of Monday morning, DeSantis said, 20 of Florida’s 67 counties had zero cases and 26 with seven or fewer.
And, he added, Florida has implemented “mitigation measures” statewide, such as closing bars and health clubs.
At a news conference about opening of a drive-thru testing facility at The Villages, the giant senior community in Central Florida, DeSantis was asked again Monday about a statewide stay-at-home order.
“We’re looking at different options,” he said. South Florida is “pretty much own to just essential operations,” he said, adding that “we’ll look at how that will apply statewide in terms of additional measures.”
DeSantis has said he doesn’t want to do something that people will go out and flout. Wasserman Schultz called the governor’s concerns about the public’s willingness to comply with such an order “a lame excuse” and “an outrage.”
“He is causing more sickness and death without taking a leadership role that ensures that all non-essential businesses are closed around the state, that all beaches are closed around the state,” Wasserman Schultz said. “The governor should not have run for an executive office if he doesn’t like to make executive decisions. It’s putting people at risk and so we have to go much further than we have.”
U.S. Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., the state’s former governor, said during an interview with Newsmax television on Monday that people should avoid going out if they don’t have to and air travel should be shut down.
But he avoided directly answering a question on whether Florida should implement a shelter-in-place order. “We ought to all try to come together,” he said.
If businesses can operate with social distancing and checking temperatures, thus keeping people employed, “I want to keep those businesses open,” Scott said.
They faulted Trump for failing to use the Defense Production Act, a law from the Korean War era, to mobilize American industry to ramp up production of vital materials.
Wasserman Schultz said she sees Trump’s refusal to use the powers under the law “is because he’s afraid of getting called a socialist later in the election, or afraid of not being a be able to illegitimately be able to call Democrats as socialist if he takes an action that he perceives as socialistic.”
Wasserman Schultz said Trump belied his motives in his Sunday news conference. “We’re a country not based on nationalizing our business. Call a person over in Venezuela; ask them how did nationalization of their businesses work out. Not too well. The concept of nationalizing our business is not a good concept,” Trump said.
As if on cue, minutes after the Democrats’ news conference wrapped up, the campaign arm for House Republicans issued a statement asserting that Shalala, who represents part of Miami-Dade County, “will always put the socialists in Washington before South Floridians.”
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A nationwide Monmouth University poll released Monday found 50% of Americans say Trump has done a good job and 45% say he’s done a bad job dealing with the coronavirus outbreak. Governors got much higher marks, with 72% saying their governors were doing a good job and 18% a bad job.
Asked for a presidential assessment, Scott said Trump “doing the daily briefings is great.” He also said Trump and top administration officials are “working hard.”
And Emma Vaughn, Florida Press Secretary for the Republican National Committee, said by email that “President Trump has taken bold and decisive action that has undoubtedly saved American lives while Democrats are playing political games.”
Wasserman Schultz predicted that voters would punish Trump in November and “remove that political health hazard that now resides in the White House.”
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