News 88.9 KNPR
Classical 89.7 KCNV

member station

Coronavirus Live Updates

FACT CHECK: Trump Praises Florida Governor Despite Criticism Of Coronavirus Response


Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks during a news conference at a drive-through coronavirus testing site in front of Hard Rock Stadium on Monday.
Wilfredo Lee, AP

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks during a news conference at a drive-through coronavirus testing site in front of Hard Rock Stadium on Monday.

During Tuesday's White House press briefing, President Trump said Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is "a great governor," who "knows exactly what he's doing" in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Vice President Mike Pence added to the DeSantis accolades, saying the Republican governor has "been taking decisive steps from early on."

But according to public health experts, thousands of heath care workers and a pending lawsuit, DeSantis' leadership has been woefully inadequate.

Florida is in the grip of an intensifying coronavirus outbreak, with state health officials on Tuesday reporting 600 more confirmed cases, bringing the Sunshine State's total infections to more than 6,700. Officials say 85 Floridians have died of COVID-19.

Florida is one of the few states with a large number of infections that still has not ordered residents statewide to remain indoors. DeSantis has issued a "safer at home" order covering four South Florida counties that is in effect until April 15.

Support comes from

But that measure falls well short of the White House task force's own guidance that is now urging all Americans to avoid contact, non-essential businesses to shut down and travel be greatly restricted for the next 30 days at least.

The first coronavirus cases were detected in Florida on March 1, yet public health experts say DeSantis' actions were anything but "decisive steps" taken "early on."

As thousands of spring breakers flocked to Florida, DeSantis generated criticism not refusing to close beaches around the state. Governors in other parts of the country were locking down cities and counties, but DeSantis adopted a hands-off approach for weeks.

The tactic has left front-line medical workers unsettled. Nearly 2,000 Florida healthcare professionals signed an open letter to Desantis pleading with him to take more aggressive actions to hinder the spread of the virus, including enacting a statewide shelter-in-place order.

José Szapocznik, an epidemiologist at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, had this to say to the Tampa Bay Times of Florida's response to the pandmeic: "Quite honestly, if we don't do anything, we'll be like New York," referring to the United States' epicenter of the global coronavirus outbreak.

A lawsuit filed by a Santa Rosa Beach lawyer argues DeSantis is constitutionally required to protect state residents from the virus and is asking for a state lockdown, including the closure of all beaches.

Despite mounting pressure to embrace more stringent measures, DeSantis indicated at a Tuesday press conference that he plans on staying the course.

"I think no matter what you do, you're going to have a class of folks who just do whatever the hell they want to," said DeSantis, noting that Floridians should be "responsible," avoid crowds and stay indoors, but he would not be mandating those practices with a statewide order.

"People should just chill out and stay around the house as much as they can," DeSantis said. "In terms of being social right now, this is just not the time to have big social gatherings."

Desantis said if the White House task force specifically asked him to adopt greater containment policies, he would consider it, but he noted that federal officials have not done so.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit

You won’t find a paywall here. Come as often as you like — we’re not counting. You’ve found a like-minded tribe that cherishes what a free press stands for.  If you can spend another couple of minutes making a pledge of as little as $5, you’ll feel like a superhero defending democracy for less than the cost of a month of Netflix.

More Stories

Englewood Beach in Charlotte County, Fla. was crowded on Saturday, March 20, 2020. Public gatherings like these will be prohibited beginning Thursday.
Coronavirus Live Updates
A public safety officer directs drivers where to go last week at a coronavirus testing site at the Lee Davis Community Resource Center in Tampa, Fla.
Coronavirus Live Updates