Reprinted with permission from Alternet
In contrast to the governors who aggressively promote social distancing measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic — from Republican Larry Hogan in Maryland to Democrat Gavin Newsom in California — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has often joined President Donald Trump in downplaying the pandemic's severity. A recent South Florida Sun Sentinel investigation showed how badly DeSantis misled Floridians on COVID-19's dangers, and CBS 4 Miami (the CBS television affiliate in that city) interviewed one of the reporters who worked on that investigation: Mario Ariza.
Ariza told CBS 4 Miami, "In the weeks leading up to the election, we essentially discovered that the DeSantis Administration had ordered public health officials not to discuss the COVID-19 virus with the public. So, no press releases about COVID-19 were coming out from the Florida Department of Health. And the Florida Department of Health's messaging to the public shifted remarkably online. The term that we kept hearing again and again for this was 'blue sky' messaging, in the lead up to the election."
Sun Sentinel Investigation: Gov. Ron DeSantis ‘Ordered Public Health Officials Not To Discuss The COVID-19 Virus Wi… https://t.co/6pT7OON7gK— LVaddict618 (@LVaddict618) 1607306276.0
CBS 4 Miami asked Ariza to go into details about the "blue sky messaging" that the DeSantis Administration wanted, and he elaborated.
The reporter explained, "It's almost a directive to talk about anything other than the virus itself…. The Florida Department of Health, which is the main public health agency in the state, wasn't talking about the pandemic. It wasn't talking about COVID-19. It was talking about everything else."
According to Ariza, the DeSantis Administration marginalized any health experts who didn't fit in with that "blue sky messaging."
"We discovered several instances, actually, when the DeSantis Administration, perhaps initially, reached out to local Florida virus experts — epidemiologists, folks (who have) a lot of expertise in fighting the virus — and then, just kind of never reached out to them again after meeting with them once," Ariza told CBS 4 Miami. "Or if they brought them in, didn't give them the necessary information to work with. And then, when those folks wouldn't necessarily tell the Administration what we think the Administration wanted to hear, they went and sought out help from, well, folks who we call dissenters. Foremost amongst these was Dr. Scott Atlas, who you may remember as Trump's coronavirus advisor. He's since resigned."