TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Democrats in the U.S. House and a group of Florida physicians called on the governor Thursday to take increased actions as the more infectious Delta variant rages in Florida.
Cases in the state accounted for about 20 percent of the nation's new COVID-19 infections. Most of those cases are happening among unvaccinated people.
Florida Health's latest report showed about 40 percent of eligible Floridians, nearly eight million, lack a single COVID-19 shot.
"Every conversation should be about COVID right now," said Dr. Mona Mangat, a St. Petersburg immunologist. "The governor should be out there in every community talking about vaccination."
Mangat is a board member for the Committee to Protect Health Care, a physicians advocacy group with more than 400 members across the state. About 90 percent of them are doctors, officials said.
She and two other committee physicians told members of the press that DeSantis should end his "mission accomplished" rhetoric and place a renewed focus on getting shots in arms.
"You want to do campaigning?" said Dr. Frederick Southwick, an infectious disease specialist in Gainesville. "Gov. DeSantis, go to all these rural communities and talk to the people about getting vaccinated. Tell them you got the vaccine."
Meanwhile, Florida Democrats in Congress urged DeSantis to "use the full extent of his powers" to fight the Delta variant, sending a letter Thursday.
It detailed six requests:
- Easing restrictions on local governments/businesses to allow mask mandates or vaccine requirements
- Ending "interference from Tallahassee" to allow businesses to follow CDC guidance
- Stopping the pardoning of COVID rule breakers
- Return to daily, not weekly, virus reports
- Better combating vaccine hesitancy and misinformation
- Reinstatement of telehealth flexibilities that expired at the end of June
DeSantis pushed back against his critics during a news conference earlier that day. He again vowed to prevent COVID mitigation mandates in schools or on businesses and stressed individual choice for vaccines.
The governor addressed criticism of his handling of the Delta variant this morning. "If anyone is calling for lockdowns, you're not getting that done in Florida," he said: pic.twitter.com/vJg4HdazgQ— Forrest Saunders (@FBSaunders) July 22, 2021
"We have had vaccines available for months and months now," DeSantis said. "People need to make decisions about what is best for them -- but to have the government come in and lock anyone down or restrict anybody is totally unacceptable."
The Republican also said if the federal government were to require masking in schools, he would bring the Legislature back for a special session to forbid it.
"We're not doing that in Florida," DeSantis said. "We need our kids to breathe."