DeSantis expects rise in COVID cases by Jan. 1; won’t “indulge in any of the insanity” of shutdowns

Governor also pushes new monoclonal treatment

By: - December 17, 2021 1:45 pm

Gov. Ron DeSantis at news conference in Ocala, Dec. 17, 2021. Credit: Governor’s Facebook page.

Gov. Ron DeSantis anticipates more COVID-19 cases in Florida by Jan. 1. — part of a seasonal pattern — but won’t pursue the kinds of shutdowns that could happen elsewhere across the country, according to remarks at a Friday news conference in Ocala.

In fact, COVID-19 cases are already rising, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC posted 8,785 new COVID-19 cases for Florida, based on Dec. 16 data. That’s the largest number since late September.

And the new omicron variant has been spreading across the United States, with omicron detected in 39 states, including Florida, plus Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico, according to a tracking map from The New York Times.

Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo, who attended the news conference, described omicron as highly transmissible.

Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo, at a Dec. 17, 2021 news conference in Ocala. Credit: Florida Channel.

“The science regarding omicron is actually extremely interesting,” Ladapo said. “Because…the velocity with which it becomes a dominant strain is like nothing that we’ve seen before during this pandemic.”

“Of course countering that, the good news is, so far there is no evidence that it’s deadly,” Ladapo said about omicron.

There has been a death, though. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced Dec. 13 that, “at least one patient has now been confirmed to have died with omicron,” according to the Washington Post.

Even so, “We are not going to indulge in any of the insanity that you see starting to happen again in some of these parts of the country,” DeSantis said at the news conference Friday, where no one, including Ladapo and state and Congressional lawmakers, wore masks.

The governor mentioned universities elsewhere that force students to wear masks and get vaccinated — measures that other colleges and universities have supported to ward off COVID-19 — and “they’re still shutting down.” DeSantis described the measures as heavy-handed policies that are total failures.

As to K-12 schools, DeSantis said that, “I think unfortunately, you will see some of these areas close K-12 schools this winter. I think that’d be disastrous. I hope it doesn’t happen.”

Early on in the pandemic, and at a fearful time, Florida did close schools. Many of the 67 counties, which coincide with school districts, had few or no COVID cases at the time, according to state health department data, while Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach had the largest numbers of COVID cases.

Millions of students got instruction online at home. DeSantis has since regretted the school closures.

Also on Friday, DeSantis pushed for a new monoclonal treatment called by the brand name Evusheld, by AstraZenaca.

According to The New York Times, the Food and Drug Administration earlier this month authorized the drug ” for widespread use in preventing COVID in Americans with weakened immune systems who have not been adequately protected by vaccines.”

Evusheld ” is engineered to be ‘long-acting,’ meaning the body metabolizes it more slowly so that it can stay active for months. That is expected to offer longer-lasting protection — perhaps for half a year — compared to the monoclonal antibody treatments that are given to high-risk people already sick with COVID,” according to the Times.

DeSantis also reminisced about the early days of the pandemic, back in March 2020.

“Don’t go to the gym, don’t exercise, stay home and eat take out…quite frankly that was insane to be doing that,” DeSantis said.

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Diane Rado
Diane Rado

Diane Rado has covered state and local government and public schools in six states over some 30 years, focusing on policy and investigative stories as well as legislative and political reporting. She spent most of her career at the St. Petersburg (Tampa Bay) Times and the Chicago Tribune. She has a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and did a fellowship in education reform at the University of Michigan in 1999-2000. She is married to a journalist and has three adult children.