Florida gov on not issuing a stay-at-home order: If the White House recommends it, that’ll carry weight with me

I don’t know why Ron DeSantis wants to be governor. If he’s willing to issue a statewide shelter-in-place order but can’t muster the nerve without an official benediction from Trump to appease Florida’s MAGA fans, even after dozens of other governors have provided him cover by going first in their own states, he just shouldn’t have the job. Let Trump govern Florida from the White House.

Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, who has been criticized for refusing to set more statewide mandates as the number of confirmed cases of the coronavirus there has soared over 6,700, said on Tuesday that one reason he had not was because the White House’s task force had not recommended it.

“If they do, that’s something that would carry a lot of weight with me,” said Mr. DeSantis, a Republican who has been conciliatory to the White House and received praise in return.

It’s technically true that the White House hasn’t asked him to act but they’ve been sending signals about a national shutdown for weeks. Anthony Fauci endorsed the idea on March 15. Trump just extended the national guidelines on social distancing through April 30. The surgeon general, Jerome Adams, was on NBC this morning and was asked about DeSantis’s remark, specifically why the White House hasn’t called for Floridians to stay home until further notice. Uh, we have, said Adams, pointing to Trump’s guidelines:

DeSantis might point to that and say, “Well, we already have national guidelines. You don’t need me to formally issue an order.” Or he could point to the Kinsa “health weather” data showing that fevers are already trending downward across Florida as evidence that a stay-at-home order might be redundant at this point. But he’s not doing that. He seems to believe that there is value to a stay-at-home order issued by the governor. He just refuses to do it until Trump tells Trump fans in Florida not to be mad at the governor if he pulls the trigger.

Another White House advisor, an epidemiologist who contributed to the epidemic model cited by Trump at yesterday’s briefing, agrees that there’s value to a statewide stay-at-home order. It’s time for one in Florida, he told the Miami Herald. Now.

Ali Mokdad, a professor at the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, said he told Florida’s top health official Monday night that the governor should issue a blanket stay-at-home order mandating the closure of non-essential businesses and social isolation in order to control the spread of the virus. The institute’s model — which is updated daily as data changes — predicts that even if such an order is given, the state’s coronavirus outbreak is on pace to peak in early May in numbers that will overwhelm intensive care units and potentially lead to thousands of deaths by the summer.

“These estimations are based on [the expectation that] Florida will implement stay-at-home measures within a week from now. We’re assuming next Monday this will be in place,” Mokdad, a former epidemiologist for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told the Miami Herald. “If they don’t, these numbers will go up.”

Mokdad, who spoke to the Miami Herald Monday afternoon before speaking to Florida Surgeon General Scott Rivkees, said he would “strongly recommend shutting down everything.”

Remember, according to Kinsa’s data, exhortations to the public to stay home don’t work very well to contain the spread. Closing things down is what works.

It’s DeSantis’s responsibility to act here, not Trump’s, but I don’t know why Trump doesn’t throw him a bone at this point by formally requesting that he shut things down. The president is already all-in on that position nationally per his briefings this week. It’s hard to see why Floridians would hold him more responsible for the local economic downturn if he made a personal request to their governor instead of encouraging shutdowns across the country generally.

Especially since Florida has been unusually well supplied with medical equipment from the national stockpile relative to some other states by the federal government. I wonder why:

Three days after requesting 430,000 surgical masks, 180,000 N95 respirators and other equipment on March 11, Florida received all of the items. The state received an additional shipment less than two weeks later. As of late last week, it was awaiting a third shipment…

One White House official said Trump is attuned to the electoral importance of Florida in November, giving added weight to the arguments DeSantis has made to the administration that his state’s economy should reopen as soon as possible.

“The president knows Florida is so important for his reelection, so when DeSantis says that, it means a lot,” said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to be frank. “He pays close attention to what Florida wants.”

What Florida wants and what Florida needs are two different things, though. Trump seemed to finally accept that distinction a few days ago when he endorsed social distancing for another month despite the economic pain it would cause. If he asks DeSantis to issue a stay-at-home order as a matter of public health, Floridians will forgive both of them for the lost wealth. They’re trying to save lives.

Here’s Scott Gottlieb making very clear on CNBC this morning that Florida is the state he’s most concerned about right now. It was seeded early with coronavirus cases, Gottlieb believes, probably in February; DeSantis and his team have moved sluggishly to shut things down, most notoriously by allowing spring break to proceed; now they’re moving sluggishly again in issuing a stay-at-home order. Gottlieb thinks that whether the grim model of 100,000+ American deaths that Fauci and Birx have been touting proves true or not might depend on what big states like Florida and Texas that haven’t moved aggressively enough to contain their outbreaks do soon. Maybe it’s time for Trump to call DeSantis and Greg Abbott.

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