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Gov. Ron DeSantisEXPAND
Gov. Ron DeSantis
Illustration by DonkeyHotey/via Flickr

Uncle Luke: Florida Republicans Screwed Up COVID-19 Response

When a hurricane threatens to hit South Florida, everybody is on the same page to make sure residents and businesses are prepared to weather the coming storm. From the governor to the city mayors, we get clear, concise direction about shuttering your windows, gathering essential supplies such as bottled water and canned food, securing personal property, and making an evacuation plan days before a hurricane makes landfall.

The same cannot be said about the governmental response to the COVID-19 pandemic. It's a lack of leadership from Gov. Ron DeSantis down to Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Giménez. They have failed to come up with a blueprint to combat the coronavirus that has infected more than 200,000 people in Florida and killed upward of 3,700. Instead of treating the pandemic like a natural disaster, government leaders at the local, county, and state levels are acting like it's a political hot potato. These Republican politicians don't have any common sense.

The first failure was not making sure everyone had access to testing during the early days of the pandemic in March. For instance, one of the first testing centers at Hard Rock Stadium was initially for only first responders. It took weeks to open it up to the public, but only after critics like me raised hell about it. We should have been rolling out an aggressive testing campaign to get ahead of the virus.

Now, as Florida continues to regularly break single-day records for new cases, we are seeing local governments roll back testing sites. The City of Miami recently closed a testing site at Charles Hadley Park in Liberty City, one of the neighborhoods hit hardest by COVID-19. This is typical mismanagement by a banana republic. Government officials need to open more testing sites, especially testing centers for people who need to be retested after being diagnosed with COVID-19. People who have recovered are losing their minds because they can't get cleared to go back to work.

Government leaders then fucked up the slowing down of community spread by reopening too soon. Florida should have remained in lockdown mode through July at least. Instead, DeSantis rushed to reopen the state so President Donald Trump wouldn't mock him. Giménez and other mayors followed the governor's lead. They opened up the beaches, restaurants, and strip clubs — all places where it is impossible to stop large groups of people from congregating.

They need to fire whoever suggested that reopening titty bars during a pandemic was a good idea. It was probably the same idiot who suggested the county mayor ban lap dances and stop serving alcohol after midnight before Gimenez just shut down strip clubs for good. A strip club is one of the grimiest places: You are touching dirty dollar bills, grabbing bottles, and drinking out of glasses. Then there's the issue of lap dances and all the touching involved with that. I love strip clubs, but there is no way I am going inside one for at least a year.

Once the decision was made to reopen businesses and public spaces like the beaches and the parks, there should have been a serious effort to make people abide by the precautions of wearing facemasks and practicing social distancing. Anyone who went outside without a mask or was getting closer than six feet to people they don't live with should have gotten an automatic fine. By the second week of reopening parks, no one was enforcing these rules.

The hotels should have remained closed. Now you have all these out-of-towners spreading their germs in the rooms and common areas. Those germs then spread to the hotel workers, who then spread it to their families when they go home. It's a strategy that is hurting our tourism economy more than helping it. Now you have a situation where visitors won't come to Florida out of fear they will have to quarantine for 14 days when they return to their home states like New York. We should do the same. Everyone traveling to South Florida should be placed in 14-day quarantine.

And now we are seeing a resurgent pandemic in the middle of hurricane season. If we get hit by a major storm, the blueprint is going out the window. The coronavirus surge in the middle of a pandemic is going to cause a lot of death in Miami-Dade due to mismanagement by the local government. This is going to get worse before it gets better.

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