Florida’s extremism has come home to roost. The Sunshine State has the distinction of championing misinformation on COVID-19 vaccines and intolerance on book bans.
Just as Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration recommended people under age 65 do not get the new COVID-19 vaccine boosters, the state led the country in coronavirus hospitalizations.
During the week ending Sept. 9, Florida’s hospitalization rate reached 10.65 per 100,000 residents, Politico reported. That’s a small number compared to the peak of the pandemic, but emblematic of how Floridians have paid the price for the ignorance DeSantis has labeled “freedom.”
While his hand-picked surgeon general didn’t rule out vaccinations for those most vulnerable to the virus, people ages 65 and up, he left enough room for anti-vax fears to set in. He recommended they consult with their healthcare providers, including about “potential concerns” he’s raised about the shots that have saved nearly 20 million lives worldwide, according to a study published last year.
DeSantis’ hope is that his approach to the pandemic — ignoring and ridiculing mainstream public health recommendations — will help his presidential campaign resurface in the polls. But, as Politico reported last week, the pandemic, once a driving issue among Republicans, doesn’t appear to be top of mind for voters anymore.
When blue states were shutting down businesses, mandating masks and closing schools, DeSantis could draw a clear contrasting line. But now that most of the country has moved on from strict restrictions, all DeSantis has left is his dangerous rhetoric against vaccines. If elected president, he told ABC News he wouldn’t support further federal funding for immunizations.
Florida is no beacon of freedom as the governor is selling it to the rest of the nation. We have become the poster child for what happens when ideas leave the fringes of political discourse and are instituted as public policy.
Florida also is No. 1 — and by far — in taking books off school shelves.
Of 3,362 instances of book bans in public schools in the United States, 40% took place in the Sunshine State, according to a tally by PEN America, a nonprofit that advocates for freedom of expression. Most book removals in the country were classified as “banned pending investigation,” meaning a book has been removed during review, the Herald reported.
Thanks to Florida’s expanded law known as “Don’t say gay,” any resident can object to instructional or library materials and get them removed until a school district conducts an investigation. The law also prohibits instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity and has driven groups to request banning books dealing with LGBTQ issues.
DeSantis has also signed laws to restrict how teachers speak about race and racism. His appointees, in their takeover of New College of Florida in Sarasota, voted to eliminated a major deemed too “woke,” gender studies.
This is Florida, where knowledge is restricted and free thinking is admonished. But you’re free to spew as much dangerous information to the public — the crazier and more conspiratorial, the better.
This time, it doesn’t feel good to be No. 1.
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