DeSantis on new CDC guidance: Yes to freedom and no to living in a "Faucian dystopia"

A top-notch applause line here, in keeping with his “Don’t Fauci My Florida” campaign merchandising. DeSantis grasps that Fauci has ascended to the status of premier villain of the pandemic for righties and is eager to leverage that. (Interestingly, Fauci seems to have grasped it too.) Positioning himself as the anti-Fauci is an economical way to fend off attacks from 2024 rivals like Kristi Noem who want the label of “most anti-lockdown candidate” for themselves.

Watch him addressing ALEC yesterday. The widely derided new CDC guidance on masking was an irresistible peg for him to show off his anti-Fauci credentials.

I’m with him on almost all of that. No to lockdowns? I agree, there’s no way to justify lockdowns morally at this point. And no reason to order them scientifically unless we get a new vaccine-busting variant that changes the game.

No to school closures? Right again. That should have been the rule since last summer at the latest, after it had become clear that kids weren’t suffering much from COVID but were suffering a lot from remote learning. Keeping Florida’s public schools open all year is DeSantis’s greatest accomplishment as governor.

No to restrictions? It depends on the restrictions, I suppose, but it’s hard to imagine one that would make sense at this point. What’s the argument for imposing capacity limits on businesses when unvaccinated customers can simply go out and get their shots to eliminate their risk from being in a crowded retail space instead?

No to mandates? I think mask mandates are next to useless in encouraging masking since most people are going to mask anyway due to anxiety about the Delta variant.

But I wouldn’t go so far as to say no to all mandates.

In fact, I can think of one or two that would be quite justifiable morally in the interest of protecting people who can’t get vaccinated yet or protecting those whose vaccinations might not offer them stiff immunity at this point.

Anyway, DeSantis is showing a bit of daring by crowing publicly about a “Faucian dystopia” at this particular point of the COVID nightmare, as he governs a state that’s having an especially bad time with a Delta outbreak at the moment.

Daily cases in Florida are approaching their highest point of the entire pandemic. And it’s not just a “casedemic.” Hospitalizations are also creeping up towards winter-peak levels:

The good-ish news is that deaths are still way off the peak, averaging 51 a day now versus more than 170 during the winter, but that 51 is double what it was a few weeks ago. That could be a lagging indicator, with deaths set to climb even further, but it’s probably an artifact of mass vaccination holding fatalities down. And DeSantis would say (and has said) that what Florida’s experiencing right now isn’t some weird “Delta variant” phenomenon but rather the same sort of seasonal wave it experienced last summer, when hotter temperatures drove people indoors. As you can see from the hospitalizations graph above, there were way more people in the ER last July than there are now. That’s also a testament to the vaccines (and to more natural immunity in the population, of course).

But with cases and hospitalizations rising, and deaths possibly to follow, DeSantis faces a choice. Local officials in Florida are rushing to impose restrictions aimed at limiting transmission; he can either stand aside and complain while doing nothing or he can step in to overturn those restrictions and risk being blamed for any deterioration in the local COVID situation, whether or not the restrictions he lifted realistically could have prevented that or not.

Local officials across Florida are bucking Gov. Ron DeSantis and his anti-mandate coronavirus strategy as infections soar in the state and nation. They’re imposing vaccine and mask requirements for government workers and even declaring states of emergency. In a sign of how worrisome the new Covid-19 surge is, Disney World is ordering all guests over 2-years-old to wear masks indoors at its Florida theme park, regardless of vaccination status…

Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings, husband to Democratic U.S. Senate candidate and Rep. Val Demings, has declared a state of emergency and is requiring the county’s 4,200 nonunion workers to get vaccinated by the end of September. Leon County announced it’s also imposing a vaccine requirement for county workers. Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava mandated masks at all county facilities. And in Broward County, school board officials are keeping in place mask mandates for students in the next school year despite DeSantis’ vocal opposition…

The cascade of new local Covid-19 regulations comes months after lawmakers approved a DeSantis-championed law that now allows the governor or GOP-dominated legislature to invalidate local orders, including those tied to the pandemic, if they decide the order “unnecessarily restricts a constitutional right, fundamental liberty, or statutory right.”

If DeSantis defers to local officials on mandates, opportunist rivals like Noem will claim that he’s okay living in a “Faucian dystopia” after all. If he intervenes, he’s on the hook for whatever happens with cases and deaths afterward. What’s his next move?