Governors Refuse Responsibility For Virus Spikes In States That Opened Prematurely

Ron DeSantis

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis

Photo credit: Gage Skidmore

At least four GOP governors are trying to shift blame after their push to prematurely reopen their states led to a spike in COVID-19 cases.

On April 16, the White House released its three-phase set of guidelines for how states could more safely easy social distancing rules.

Govs. Greg Abbott of Texas, Ron DeSantis of Florida, Doug Ducey of Arizona, and Henry McMaster of South Carolina were among the many governors who quickly pushed to reopen their economies, despite not having met the five federal criteria for doing so, according to analysis by ProPublica.

Last week the Washington Post reported that their states were among 14 seeing their highest seven-day average of new coronavirus cases since the start of the pandemic. On Tuesday, Arizona, Florida, and Texas saw their highest-ever number of daily positive tests, according to Reuters.

But rather than acknowledging that they moved too quickly, the governors of those states have sought to explain away the sudden spike in cases by casting blame on random culprits.

Abbott complained on Monday that twenty-somethings in Texas were behind the abrupt shift.

"What we're seeing there is that people of that age group, they're not following these appropriate best health and safety practices," he told a local television station. "They're not wearing face masks, they're not sanitizing their hands, they're not maintaining the safe distancing practices. And as a result, they are contracting COVID-19 at a record pace in the state of Texas."

DeSantis also placed some of the blame for Florida's spikes on young people, but pinned most of the problem on agricultural workers.

"You have very risky working conditions, particularly in these farm camps or with some of these construction workers," he said on Tuesday. "You know some of these guys, they go to work in a school bus, and they're like sardines going across like Palm Beach County or some of these other places, and you know just all these opportunities to have transmission."

A spokesperson for Florida's agriculture commissioner disputed this, noting that "the vast majority of farmworkers left agricultural communities several weeks ago, as harvests have ended."

DeSantis also claimed some of the new cases were from increased testing of people ages 20 to 45. "These are the people who are in the low-risk groups," he told reporters last Friday.

Ducey, for his part, claimed that a few Arizona businesses were behind the problem.

"As we have reopened, there's been good actors," he told reporters on Wednesday. "But there have been more than an outlier here and there. There have been some bad actors. I have chosen to focus on the good actors trying to promote responsible decisions and good business management, but we need to address the folks that are not in line."

Meanwhile, in South Carolina, McMaster said that residents were being irresponsible by not staying away from each other. "It's disappointing going to places and seeing people in crowds," he told a local television station last week. "We all have to practice social responsibility. Not becoming infected and not infecting others."

Despite the rise in cases, McMaster said he did not plan to shut down the state again, according to the outlet.

Public health experts have warned that reopening states too quickly may cause further damage and trigger a spike in infections across the country.

"What we are seeing is indeed, when people ease too quickly, that they do then see a rise in infections," Dr. Margaret Harris, a member of the World Health Organization's coronavirus response team, told NPR last month. "One of the issues is when people see their particular outbreak coming down, they go, 'Well, that's done, done and dusted.' But that is not the case."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.


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