DeSantis: Enough with the media hysteria about Florida's COVID surge

You can’t go wrong as a Republican blaming the media for all of life’s problems but “hysteria” is too strong a word for the press’s reaction to what Florida’s enduring right now. It’s true that case surges don’t matter much in a post-vaccine age, when many people who get infected will be spared a trip to the ER because they got their shots. It’s also true that Florida is still far off its peak in daily deaths thanks to the state’s effort to vaccinate seniors, the most vulnerable group, this past winter and spring.

But hospitalizations matter, both as a measure of severe illness and as a strain on emergency care for the general population. And Florida’s breaking its records for COVID hospitalizations day after day lately. Until recently the highest number was 10,170 set last July. Two days ago they registered 10,389, then yesterday they notched 11,515. “Hospitals around the state report having to put emergency room visitors in beds in hallways,” according to the AP.

DeSantis thinks it’s “hysteria” to point that out, overlooking the fact that with hospitalizations rising now, deaths will rise too in the next few weeks.

Is it true that Floridians who need critical care for reasons unrelated to COVID are refusing to go to the hospital in order to avoid infection? The AP asked around and says no: “Doctors interviewed by The Associated Press acknowledged that this happened during the early months of the pandemic, but say it’s no longer true, and that they’re treating the usual number of cardiac patients.” DeSantis also grumbled today that it’s not the case that hospitals statewide are uniformly overtaxed. Right, but some are. And if you happen to live in an area where they are, you have a problem potentially.

In response, some Florida hospitals have suspended visitations and others have taken the more drastic step of restricting elective surgeries while administrators scramble to find space for intensive care patients and to shore up nursing and staffing shortages.

Brevard County’s Health First, which operates four hospitals, paused all elective surgeries not considered “essential” through Aug. 15 while Jacksonville’s Baptist Health asked surgeons to delay some elective surgeries at its six hospitals because of the rise in COVID-19 patients.

Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings this week announced that local hospitals are in crisis from the surge — one week after Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava issued a similar warning about rising hospital admissions, particularly among the unvaccinated, and urged everyone to get the vaccine to protect themselves and others.

According to staff who spoke to the Miami Herald, the reason beds are filling more quickly than they’re opening up is because people are getting sicker faster and, to all appearances, more severely after infection now. Patients are trending younger than they used to as well because so many seniors are vaccinated. The Delta outbreak would have been cataclysmic if it had happened last summer, before the vaccines were available.

On top of the surge in patients, there’s been a drop in staff able to attend to them. Florida went from having four percent of its hospitals facing a critical staff shortage a week ago to having 13 percent facing a shortage today. Presumably that’s mostly due to employees getting infected and having to isolate but I’m curious to know how many have simply left the profession because they can’t take the grind of another wave. “We have been living Covid for over a year and a half. The stress and the strain for all the providers and nursing staff is really getting to everyone,” said one hospital physician to NBC. “We’re taking care of patients who, if they had made the right choice and gotten the vaccine, would not be in the hospital. You’re battling through sadness, but you’re also battling through a little anger, too.”

This is the first wave America has faced that could have been, and should have been, avoided. But DeSantis will never admit that because a meaningful number of the people responsible for bringing about this scenario are people whose votes he’s competing for in the 2024 primaries:

Of course no one’s trying to get ill. But many aren’t trying not to, to the point where they won’t get their shots *or* take precautions like wearing masks. Some of them are in Florida hospital beds at this moment, taxing the overworked staff and unnecessarily incurring massive hospital expenses. Why shouldn’t people be judgmental with them, starting with the medical personnel who have to breathe in their COVID germs day after day on the hospital ward?

Jonathan Last, ever cynical, argues that by the twisted logic of GOP presidential politics, Florida’s current COVID wave might actually help DeSantis in 2024:

Every time DeSantis is criticized by the media, it helps him.

Every additional death is evidence that he didn’t cave to “the lockdowns.”

The more people who die on his watch, the greater a testament it is to his fidelity to the cause of modern conservatism. It proves that he’s not some RINO cuck like Mike DeWine.

If people really believe that COVID is the fault of foreigners, then the bigger the death toll, the more aggrieved DeSantis can be by how these nefarious foreigners hurt his state.

I agree with the governor that mask mandates are marginal at this point and shouldn’t be foisted on kids in schools but it’s useful for partisans to remind themselves that the majority doesn’t always agree with them. A new Gallup poll out today finds that Americans generally and parents of school-aged kids specifically support mandatory masking for teachers — and their own children, presumably to hedge against them bringing the virus home with them:

Masks won’t do much to protect kids. Vaccinations will, but there’s a divergence between parents and the overall population on whether kids should be vaxxed. Among all adults, 56 percent say middle-school students should have to get their shots to attend school. Among parents, just 43 percent do. Clearly moms and dads are spooked about the possibility of long-term side effects from the vaccine on their kids. And less spooked, for whatever reason, about the possibility of long-term side effects from COVID on them.

Here’s the White House making sure that Americans blame Florida, which is governed by the GOP’s new rising star and potential Biden 2024 opponent, for the country’s Delta surge.