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Biden: 'We Need Leadership From Everyone' On Pandemic

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Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis is downplaying a spike in COVID-19 cases that’s inundating the state’s hospitals. And that’s drawing fire from one potential challenger to DeSantis in 2020.

With the much more contagious delta variant now spreading exponentially, Florida has hit more than 11,000 hospitalizations — breaking last year’s record for the third straight day —and up from just 1,000 in mid-June.

“Just two states, Florida and Texas, account for one-third of all new COVID-19 cases in the entire country — just two states, said President Joe Biden on Tuesday. “Look, we need leadership from everyone.”

Biden called out DeSantis and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.

“If some governors aren’t willing to do the right thing to beat this pandemic, then they should allow businesses and universities who want to do the right thing, to be able to do it,” said the president. “I say to these governors, please help; but if you’re not going to help, at least get out of the way.”

DeSantis fired back during an appearance in Panama City on Wednesday.

“Let me tell you this — if you’re coming after the rights of parents in Florida, I’m standing in your way. I’m not going to let you get away with it,” said the governor. “If you are trying to lock people down, I am standing in your way.”

DeSantis also answered the president’s call to mask up at school with a repeat of one of his most-used litanies.

“[Biden’s] solution is that he wants to have the government force kindergarteners to wear masks in school; he doesn’t believe the parents should have a say in that,” DeSantis said. “He thinks that should be a decision for the government. I can tell you, in Florida, the parents are going to be the ones in charge.”

DeSantis expects hospitalizations to drop in the next couple weeks. He asserted that the spike is seasonal as Floridians spend more time together indoors to escape the summer heat and humidity.

“Right now, the problem is that our governor has put his head in the sand; and has left the state of Florida, has abandoned us. We need him to start taking this very seriously,” said Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried —Florida’s lone statewide elected Democrat —who is seeking her party’s gubernatorial nomination.

Appearing on MSNBC, she called on DeSantis to issue an emergency order on COVID-19.

“The emergency order would allow us to pull down additional funds from the federal government to increase our testing here in the state of Florida, as well as more vaccination locations,” Fried said. “So his executive order would say, ‘Floridians please go out and get the vaccines.’ But unfortunately, this governor is more preoccupied with running for president in 2024, and not taking this seriously.”

DeSantis this week strongly repeated his vow not to impose a mask mandate or any business restrictions — threatening school district with pulling their state funding for non-compliance. He’s also blasting reports that vaccinations, at some point, could be federally mandated.

“We can either have a free society, or we can have a ‘biomedical security state,’ And I can tell you [in] Florida, we’re a free state,” the governor said to supporters in Panama City. “People are going to be free to choose and make their own decisions about themselves, about their families, [and] about their kids’ education.”

“It shouldn’t be about mandating masks or not mandating masks; last year, we didn’t have the tool in our shed of the vaccinations,” said Fried. “We have it now.”

Fried contends that the debate over to mask or not to mask, is taking the attention away from the larger and more important point.

“We need to be having bipartisan support coming together, emphasizing how important it is to get the vaccine and to get it now,” said Fried. “And so, when [DeSantis] does things like this, and flirts with anti-vaxxers and anti-maskers, what he’s doing is he’s signaling to the people of our state: don’t take this seriously.”

Meantime, two Florida school districts are defying the governor’s order banning mandatory face coverings. Alachua County will require them for the first two weeks of the upcoming school year, while the Duvall County district will require them, pending an opt-out filed by parents.