Monkeypox, which is endemic to African countries, has been identified in the United States and across the globe. Credit: CDC
Gov. Ron DeSantis lashed out at big blue-state governors who’ve declared emergencies over monkeypox, accusing them and the news media of attempting to stoke fear as a way of controlling people.
The governor was asked about the matter during a news conference he called in Brevard County to announce an opioid treatment initiative.
“Any of these politicians you see out there trying to scare you about this — do not listen to their nonsense,” he said.
“I am so sick of politicians — and we saw this with COVID — trying to sow fear into the population. We’ve had people calling — mothers worried about whether their kids could catch it at school.
“Anything we deal with from a public health perspective, particularly with Joe at the helm, you know, we are not doing fear. They’re going to do facts. And we are not going to go out and try to rile people up and try to act like people can’t live their lives as they’ve been normally doing, you know, because of something,” DeSantis said.
“Joe” was Joseph Ladapo, Florida’s surgeon general and head of the state Department of Health.
Governors in California, Illinois, and New York have already declared emergencies to ease coordination between agencies and get the outbreak under control.
As of Tuesday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported 25,391 monkeypox cases in 83 countries, with 6,326 cases within the United States.
In Florida, the state Department of Health shows a caseload of 525 statewide, including 237 cases in Broward County, 135 in Miami-Dade, 32 in Orange, 30 in Palm Beach, 22 in Pinellas, and 21 in Hillsborough counties.
Brevard County, where DeSantis held the news conference, has one monkeypox case. Brevard is in Central Florida, on the Atlantic side of the peninsula.
The disease is caused by a virus related to smallpox that’s transmitted by skin-to-skin contact or exposure to contaminated clothing, bedclothes, towels, or other materials. It causes fever and a rash that can feature painful pustules. The disease can be lethal.
Agricultural Commissioner Nikki Fried, a Democrat seeking her party’s nomination to oppose DeSantis’ reelection in November, released a letter to him on Tuesday in which she argued an emergency declaration would allow “a strong, statewide emergency response that coordinates and leverages our county health departments [and] will help Floridians access vaccines and other resources to protect themselves and others from the spread of monkeypox.”
DeSantis was having none of it.
“You see some of these states declaring states of emergency. They’re going to abuse those emergency powers to restrict your freedom — I guarantee you, that’s what will happen. We saw it so much with COVID,” he said.
“Who knows what’ll be in the future with whatever? I mean, who knows what they’re cooking up in Wuhan? You just never know, right?” He referred to the place in China where the coronavirus is believed to have emerged.
“So, it ends up coming, ya gotta deal with this rationally,” he continued.
DeSantis argued that fear of COVID deterred people from seeking hospital treatment for potentially deadly ailments like heart disease and stroke, or parents from sending their children to school.
“The fear, it killed people,” DeSantis said.
Ladapo backed up the governor.
“It’s just kind of remarkable to see some of the headlines — the headlines that very clearly are trying to make you afraid of monkeypox or fill-in-the-blank. You know, because if you’re not afraid of this there will be something else after that and something else after that,” he said.
“These people are determined to make you afraid and do whatever it is they want you to do. And, um, you know, I hope that more and more people choose not to do that,” he said.
Ladapo did acknowlege that the official caseload short-shrifts the number of infections, saying, “only heaven knows how many actual cases there have been.” Some “98 percent, maybe 99 percent are in men” with “a handful” in women, he added, but no fatalities have been reported in Florida.
The state has received about 24,000 doses of vaccines and distributed about 8,500, he said.
“That being said, you should know that there’s actually very little data on this vaccine,” Ladapo said. “Believe it or not, there’s actually less data on this than on COVID vaccines at the time they were” released.
His department is working with the federal government to acquire more vaccine and on communicating information about where to get the vaccine if people want it.
Toward the end of his remarks, DeSantis brought up what’s become a familiar complaint for him: that the Biden administration uses its power to punish Floridians because of the president’s political differences with the governor.
He harkened back to January of this year, when the federal government restricted distribution of the antiviral drug Regeneron after concluding it was of little use against the then-emerging omicron strain of coronavirus.
He recalled criticism he said he drew for emphasizing treatment ahead of vaccination in defiance of federal guidelines.
“If I say the sky is blue, they’re going to attack me for that, so I get that,” the governor said.
“But it was just such the zeal in which they were trying to say that this was not something that was good. And the clinical data on it was solid,” he insisted.
“They rationed it out of Florida partially because they don’t like me. That’s just the reality of why they did that and why they treated Florida they way they’ve treated [it]. So, do you want your access to medical care to be circumscribed by some political grudge that somebody, you know, up in D.C. many have against one of our states or local communities? That’s not the way to go.”
Here are the latest numbers on monkeypox cases in FL, according to the Florida Department of Health
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