At a roundtable discussion Tuesday, Miami-area mayors expressed concerns to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis about reopening schools and businesses, with some added drama regarding the exclusion of the mayor of Hialeah. Afterward, DeSantis released a video with his takeaway: Everything is peachy.
Yesterday, in a rose-colored video that read somewhat like a campaign ad, DeSantis painted a picture of South Florida leaders united on the coronavirus response and praising the governor for his leadership. It even featured movie-trailer-style music, dramatic transitions, and what seemed to be a sparkly Instagram filter.
Getting through this pandemic requires unity of purpose. I appreciate the hard work of Miami-Dade’s mayors and I’m 100% confident we are going to get through this. pic.twitter.com/aZrWlgReIv— Ron DeSantis (@GovRonDeSantis) July 16, 2020
The video, which uses cherry-picked clips of the discussion between the governor and mayors of several South Florida cities, seems to promote the optimistic message DeSantis has stuck to over the past few months amid rising COVID-19 cases and deaths: that everything is under control.
But in the full roundtable discussion, which can be viewed in its entirety on the state's Florida Channel, the mayors dissented from DeSantis on a number of issues, including reopening schools in the fall.
At one point, the governor said that because the risk of COVID-19 for school-age children is low, leaders should not scare parents into thinking their kids are at risk. Miami Gardens Mayor Oliver Gilbert rebutted by pointing out that schools also include teachers, cafeteria workers, bus drivers, and many others who are at risk, saying the decision to reopen shouldn't be made lightly.
"When you say this is a minimal risk, this conversation goes terribly different if one child contracts COVID-19 in school and dies," said Gilbert. "The chances are low, but it could affect them. How do we make that decision?"
Other mayors, including Dan Gelber of Miami Beach and Juan Carlos Bermudez of Doral, echoed Gilbert's sentiment and told the governor that many parents in their areas are afraid to send their children back to school while the virus is raging.
The local leaders also pushed back on DeSantis when it came to his refusal to enact a statewide mask mandate.
"Too many people think this is some other person's responsibility. The public needs to be told they need to sacrifice somewhat, and a mask is a little sacrifice," Gelber said.
The mayors also fired back about the mixed messaging coming from the cities, the state, and the federal government, saying elected leaders need to speak with one voice to protect the public. Bermudez said having different rules between cities is problematic because people move between municipalities.
In a subsequent phone conversation with New Times, Gelber said he wasn't told about DeSantis' video, but that he's all right with it if it creates a sense of urgency about the virus.
"We had a little more conflict than the video portrayed, but that's OK," Gelber said.
Gelber also said communication from DeSantis and from President Donald Trump needs improvement and that there has to be a stronger message from the governor about the severity of the virus and the need to follow rules.
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"The other day he called it a blip. But this is not a blip," Gelber said, referring to a news conference during which DeSantis downplayed the new rise in cases. "There's way too much noncompliance, and it tends to be from the people who might listen to him and Trump. He needs to lead them to follow the rules."
The governor's pseudo-ad conveniently skipped the more consequential moments of discussion, choosing instead to focus on the compliments the mayors gave about the availability of the governor's staff.
At the end of the video, DeSantis says he's "100 percent confident that we're gonna get through this."
Others are not so sure, given the state's current trajectory.