The great masking debate just one small element of Florida’s emerging failed-state evolution

Friday was yet another crazy day in Florida’s failing war against COVID and descent into a failed state where the Governor acts as an authoritarian yet allows anarchy to reign in localities all in the name of “freedom.”

Here’s what happened in case you missed it.

  • The Florida Board of Education gave Alachua and Broward Counties just 48 hours to comply with the Governor’s Executive Order banning mask mandates in public schools.
  • Sarasota County became the sixth county to pass a mask mandate in schools and the first country carried by Ron DeSantis in 2018 to do so.
  • Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer asked city residents to reduce water consumption immediately because liquid oxygen used to treat water is being diverted to the hospitals to treat COVID patients.
  • The Associated Press sent a letter to Governor DeSantis regarding his press secretary, a recent transplant to the state who is paid by taxpayers attempting in incite an online mob to threaten reporters (full letter is below).
  • Florida on average this past week recorded more COVID-19 deaths than Texas, California and New York COMBINED – Florida is the 3rd largest state in the union behind California and Texas and just ahead of New York.
  • Also late Thursday, a parent lawsuit against the Governor regarding his Executive Order banning School Boards from being able to impose a mask mandate moved ahead after a preliminary hearing in the 2nd Circuit.
Copy of AP letter to Governor DeSantis

Let’s take these point-by-point.

On schools, the state has completely overreached and the outward threats by state officials on Tuesday in the Board of Education’s misogynistic bullying meeting in addition to alarmingly high COVID transmission numbers among students and school staff has started a domino effect of districts imposing mandates despite the Governor’s Executive Order. In hindsight, Rocky Hanna in Leon County looks sort of foolish for backing off his initial strong stand on the matter weeks ago.

Regarding Orlando’s water issues, these are the sorts of things that happen in the developing world. Part of the reason COVID mitigation techniques and lockdowns were used in the first place wasn’t just to prevent individual illness but to ensure hospitals did not become overwhelmed. We’ve lost that battle, thanks in large measure to the Governor.

With regards to the AP letter to Governor DeSantis, the creeping authoritarianism and bullying culture of this Administration has now garnered the attention of one of the world’s largest media outlets. In terms of proper etiquette for press secretaries and communications professionals we’ve seen a slippery slope since the Clinton years when Sidney Blumenthal actively spread dirt on reporters including former colleagues. The Trump years were a new low with combative White House employees regularly behaving like ideological talking heads on shout shows. But I must say, Christian Pushaw’s public attacks and attempts to incite an online mob directed toward Brendan Farrington, a reporter known to everyone involved in Florida Government for his fairness were a new low, the sort of thing you see in autocracies or immature democracies.

Florida’s death toll is rising because the community spread was so great in July while officials were touting Florida “being open for business” and the Governor was busy selling anti-Fauci and other childish COVID-mocking merchandise on his personal website. The Governor sets the tone, and since he tweeted in early June about “Freedom vs Faucism,” Florida has fallen into a virtual state of anarchy with regards to fighting this virus, while he focuses on consolidating his own power in unprecedented ways. In fact, Florida has become a magnet for COVID and science denying individuals from all over the country to gravitate this summer, thanks again to the Governor’s tone.

The bottom line remains this – Florida is deeply divided about COVID-19. A little over half the state is vaccinated, a little under half isn’t. The Governor has made a calculated decision that his political interests are best served by largely ignoring the need to mitigate the spread of the virus. DeSantis isn’t concerned about mitigation and has used the crisis as an opportunity to further centralize power in his office. The threat from this Governor, as I wrote last week is far more tangible than anything we saw from Rick Scott or Donald Trump.

Under Governor DeSantis, Florida is rapidly becoming a failed state, and the great masking in schools debate is only one element of this horrid tale.

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