With the virus raging in the Sunshine State, now might be a good time for the leader of that state to step up and, um, lead by example, right?
Well, that’s not the approach that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has taken. Exactly the opposite in fact.
DeSantis has been extremely cagey when asked direct questions about his vaccination status.
It started in the spring of 2021 when governors across the county (and across party lines) were touting getting the vaccine as a way to encourage their constituents to follow suit.
“A spokesperson for the Republican governor initially declined to provide details, including when exactly the Republican governor received the dose,” the Associated Press reported on April 7, 2021. “But it was later disclosed that the governor received the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine last week.” The piece also noted, “DeSantis had recently said he would be vaccinated soon — but no announcement was made by his office when he received it and no journalists were on hand. Even some of his top lieutenants said they were unaware the governor had been vaccinated.”
Fast forward to the present where the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as President Joe Biden and other national leaders are urging Americans to get a booster shot to increase their immunity to the Omicron variant of Covid-19. (People, like, apparently, DeSantis, who got the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, are recommended to be boosted two months after the initial shot.)
DeSantis, again, is being very squirrelly about the booster.
In mid-December, during an interview on Fox News Channel, DeSantis was asked directly whether he had received the booster. To which he responded thusly: “So, I’ve done, whatever I did. The normal shot. And that at the end of the day is peoples’ individual decisions about what they want to do.”
Oooooooooookay. That really clarifies things!
Then, on Monday, Politico’s Gary Fineout asked a DeSantis spokeswoman whether DeSantis has taken the booster. “I am not privy to the governor’s private medical decisions and am unable to share information about his booster status,” Christina Pushaw told him, adding that “Governor DeSantis has consistently said that vaccination (and by extension, boosters) should be a personal choice, and anyone who has questions or concerns should consult with a healthcare provider.”
Which, like, I guess? DeSantis isn’t required to tell anyone of his vaccine status. But, as a political leader in a state where Covid cases are surging and where the greatest threat is to those who are a) entirely unvaccinated or b) have not received a booster shot, it would seem like the most prominent politician in the state would want to tout the aid that the shots can give.
Instead DeSantis has either obfuscated (see above) about his own vaccination status or sought to raise questions about the efficacy of the shots. “With Omicron, you know, the vaccinations are not preventing infection,” DeSantis said Monday, leaving out the part about how being vaccinated (and boosted) drastically reduces the chances of serious consequences from the virus — including hospitalization and death.
And that’s about all that DeSantis has said. As the Palm Beach Post noted about the governor’s lack of public statements about the virus between December 17 and Monday:
“As case counts spiked over the holidays, DeSantis offered no public statements or guidance on combating the disease. He did not explain on Monday his public absence over the holidays. He attended the Orange Bowl college football playoff game at Hard Rock Stadium on New Year’s Eve, followed by a worship service at Miami Baptist Church, according to his published schedule.”
Why is DeSantis taking this mostly-silent approach to Covid-19 even as it tears through his state? Well, and stop me if you’ve heard this one before, it’s politics.
DeSantis is widely regarded as a potential 2024 candidate, especially if Donald Trump doesn’t run for president. And the hardcore Trump base of the party is decidedly anti-vaccine (and booster). When Trump said, late last year, that he has been boosted, he was booed by the crowd. When he defended the vaccine, some elements of the Trump base attacked him, insisting that he had been somehow misled.
DeSantis is no dummy. He saw the reaction to Trump’s public proclamations in favor of the vaccine and the booster. And he knows that for someone like him, who is still building good will and relationships with Trump voters, touting vaccines or boosters is a political loser.
And so, he fiddles while Covid-19 burns through his state.