"We dropped a dozen bags specifically to call out Governor DeSantis, who has turned this state into the epicenter of this pandemic globally and Miami-Dade itself, the epicenter within the epicenter," Kennedy tells New Times. "We call on these two elected officials to stop playing games, to listen to the experts, and to take this seriously, because we have not been taking this seriously."
Kennedy, who works for the immigrant-rights group United We Dream, has been critical of DeSantis' handling of the pandemic and recently interrupted the governor's own press conference, shouting, "Shame on you! You are an embarrassment! You are an embarrassment! We are getting record-breaking cases every day, and you are doing nothing."
We just dropped dozens of body bags outside the Miami-Dade government center to symbolize over 7,100+ dead due to COVID-19 and to call on governor @RonDeSantisFL and @MayorGimenez to take this crisis seriously and help working class Floridians. pic.twitter.com/EXXWK56456— Thomas Kennedy (@tomaskenn) August 4, 2020
At the group's press conference this morning, public school teacher Laura Leigh Rampey, physician Lorena Bonilla, Lulu's Ice Cream owner Luisa Santos, and Gramps tavern owner Adam Gersten spoke about how different industries are hurting amid the pandemic.
In the wake of two more teen deaths reportedly due to COVID-19 and a total of 38,000 pediatric cases, Rampey and others urged the governor to stop his push to reopen schools in the state.
"We have not met the benchmarks required to responsibly open schools in Florida — that is why Miami-Dade County, the fourth-largest school district in the county, is not reopening schools," Kennedy says. "It is not just about having kids in the schools. You have to have teachers, faculty, janitors, and cafeteria staff. You are putting a lot of people at risk. It is a liability and, quite frankly, insane."
As a healthcare professional, Bonilla discussed potential public-health policies as well as the hardships some immigrants face in obtaining healthcare or testing.
Although Kennedy says he placed the body bags in a location that would not disturb the area or disrupt the activities of local government, the group faced pushback from a county employee and a security guard.
"Immediately, a county employee and a security guard came and were like, 'You have to remove this right now. What you are doing is illegal. You can't have this equipment here,'" Kennedy says. "The security guard kept telling me this isn't a press conference, this is a protest."
According to Kennedy, the security guard placed his golf cart in between the media and the speakers, something Kennedy believes is akin to censorship. The golf cart was eventually moved out of the way.
Kennedy hopes DeSantis will follow the lead of Miami Dade-County in instituting a statewide mask mandate to help stop the spread of COVID-19, although he notes it would still be too little, too late.
Miami-Dade County tried to stop our press conference and literally tried to put a golf cart between us and the media to censor us. They eventually removed it. pic.twitter.com/kqoAJCslvh— Thomas Kennedy (@tomaskenn) August 4, 2020
"We are all well over 7,000 [deaths], and DeSantis still does not want to institute one," he says. "It is insane."
Although Giménez has taken more precautions compared to leaders of other Florida counties, he has been criticized for reopening restaurant dining rooms back in May, only to close them again in July.
As of today, there have been 497,330 COVID-19 cases in Florida and around 28,000 resident hospitalizations.