As of Wednesday, the Sunshine State was averaging 60.6 cases and 0.2 deaths per 100,000 people, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at a news conference, Thursday, Sept. 16, 2021, at the Broward Health Medical Center in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee, file)
“As Florida now ranks lowest in the continental U.S. in terms of COVID-19 rates per capita, we are proud to have stood firm in protecting liberty throughout the pandemic,” Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nunez said in a statement. “Governor DeSantis’ approach was guided by science, data and pragmatism, not fear and alarmist narratives.”
In August, when the delta variant was spreading throughout the country, Florida had among the highest new cases in the nation — a seven-day moving average of more than 21,000, according to the CDC. That figure has steadily dropped ever since.
People wait in cars to get a COVID-19 test, Wednesday, Aug. 11, 2021, in Miami. (AP)
Critics blamed the high cases and deaths on Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis’s policies, arguing that he was not being proactive enough.
DeSantis Press Secretary Christina Pushaw said when COVID cases were high, she was inundated with media requests. But now that case and death rates are low, coverage has conspicuously fizzled out.
“They were writing non-stop negative stories about COVID in Florida and implying that it was the governor’s fault,” Pushaw told Fox News. “But now that we have the lowest infection rate in the entire country, those same media outlets are silent. So, you would think, if it was his fault at the peak, why isn’t his credit right now?
“It just shows they’re using this for their own political ends, their own ends, they’re not even being consistent with it,” Pushaw said.
DeSantis’ approach contrasted sharply with the likes of California’s Gov. Gavin Newsom, who shut down large swaths of the state and imposed strict mask mandates – despite having roughly similar outcomes as Florida.
President Biden, right, looks at Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, left, during a briefing with first responders and local officials in Miami, Thursday, July 1, 2021, on the condo tower that collapsed in Surfside, Fla. (AP)
DeSantis has resisted sweeping mandates, having vowed legal action over federal vaccination requirements and having fought masking and vaccine rules implemented by local governments in Florida.
“The fact is, policies – whether they’re lockdowns, mask mandates, vaccine mandates – those do not actually make a difference in terms of COVID prevalence. But what a governor can make a difference in is protecting individual rights,” Pushaw said.
At a press conference Thursday, DeSantis announced that the state of Florida is suing the Biden administration over its coronavirus mandate for federal contractors, saying the president does not have the authority to issue the rule and that it violates procurement law.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.