Psaki: We're at war with the virus, not DeSantis, but he doesn't seem to want to participate

I’m surprised at the gusto with which Biden and Psaki have tried to make DeSantis into a foil lately. As recently as a week ago, I would have said that squabble favors DeSantis. It elevates his national profile and gives him frequent opportunities to show Republican voters that “he fights!” by jabbing back at Biden.

But Psaki just keeps after him. I wonder what sort of polling the White House has to make them think that a public feud with DeSantis over school mask mandates is in Democrats’ political interest. I can guess.

Regardless, this is a jerky thing for her to say. The most important thing any leader can do to win the war on COVID is to encourage vaccination. DeSantis has done that repeatedly. Could he be doing more to “participate”? Undoubtedly. But his state has a greater share fully vaccinated than any other won by Trump last fall and is slightly ahead of Gretchen Whitmer’s Michigan. He’s participating, just not with the sort of mandates that the Biden administration prefers.

That wasn’t the only jab she took at him today. Yesterday he was asked about a shipment of 200 ventilators and 100 nasal cannula by the feds to Florida and claimed he didn’t know anything about it and doubted that it was true. Was that a bureaucratic snafu or was he just reluctant to acknowledge that the situation in Florida is sufficiently dire that they need extra ventilators? Psaki has a theory:

She should enjoy this sparring while she can. There’s some evidence that the wave in Florida may be easing as locals hunker down and mask up:

Yesterday I speculated that Florida might be getting slammed at the moment because tourists have been flocking there to make up for vacation fun they didn’t get to have last year. A Twitter pal who lives there came to that conclusion too. “Whatever number of tourists we normally have in summer, triple that” this year, he told me. Plus, “These tourists are probably more unvaxxed than not, because what other state are you going to go to for freedom? No one wants to vacation masked.” I made that point yesterday as well: If you’re looking for a vacation destination this year where you can enjoy a semblance of pre-pandemic normalcy, without restrictions, DeSantis’s Florida is the obvious choice. Which is great for the state economically and … less great epidemiologically.

I wonder if the surge in cases has caused some would-be vacationers to cancel their trips over the past few weeks, which would help explain the decline in the reproduction rate. Either way, we can expect the Delta wave to move north within the next month or two. Then Psaki will have to explain why blue states are losing their “war” with the virus.

For the moment, though, the situation in Florida is ugly:

They topped out at 12,282 people hospitalized during last summer’s surge. They’re well above that now despite having half their population fully vaccinated and many other residents having acquired natural immunity by recovering from a prior infection. It’s mind-bending to think how bad the crisis might be right now if the country hadn’t spent the past six months immunizing everyone who was willing. It really might have been India 2.0 here.

I hate to compare California favorably to Florida in anything but one thing DeSantis could do to boost his participation in the “war” on the virus is follow Newsom’s lead and mandate vaccination (or regular testing) for public-school teachers. DeSantis pointed out to reporters today that some of the pediatric hospitalizations Florida is seeing aren’t for COVID, they’re for RSV, and that’s true. Lots of states are seeing a freaky summer wave of RSV infections in kids who were isolated last winter due to COVID protocols and whose immune systems never encountered RSV. They’re paying the price now. But if America and/or Florida is facing any sort of “twindemic” in kids involving RSV and COVID, that’s all the more reason to do what we reasonably can to reduce transmission, like vaccinating teachers. Even if pediatric hospitalizations for Delta are rare, the sheer volume of infections plus the possibility of another RSV wave this fall means that hospital beds for kids who need them could be scarcer than we expect.