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Florida Democrats blast 'MIA' Gov. Ron DeSantis as Covid cases surge

DeSantis, an opponent of masking and vaccine mandates, has not held a Covid briefing since Dec. 17 as cases have reached record highs.
Ron DeSantis, governor of Florida, speaks during the Republican Jewish Coalition Annual Leadership Meeting in Las Vegas on Nov. 6, 2021.
Ron DeSantis, governor of Florida, speaks during the Republican Jewish Coalition Annual Leadership Meeting in Las Vegas on Nov. 6, 2021.Bridget Bennett / Bloomberg via Getty Images file

Gov. Ron DeSantis has been missing in action as Covid cases in the state have spiked to new heights, Florida Democratic officials charge.

"Counties are overwhelmed w/ lines that stretch for miles," state Sen. Shevrin Jones, a Democrat, tweeted Thursday. "It's every man/woman for themselves, because leadership is MIA," he added.

DeSantis, a Republican and outspoken opponent of vaccine and mask mandates, last held a Covid press briefing on Dec. 17. Covid cases have reached new highs in Florida since then, including a record level of more than 58,000 new cases on Wednesday. The state later reported nearly 78,000 new cases on Thursday.

DeSantis' office did not respond to requests for comment. His press secretary, Christina Pushaw, tweeted Thursday that the governor has "a wife and 3 kids ages 1-5, and it’s not surprising if he wants to take a few days off at Christmas to spend time with his family, especially as his wife is battling cancer. I don’t criticize (President Joe) Biden for going to Rehoboth Beach all week, right?"

Pushaw pointed out some of his daily schedule from Tuesday, which showed he had had meetings scheduled at the Florida Capitol with state officials. In a tweet on Friday, Pushaw confirmed a Fox News report that DeSantis had accompanied his wife, Casey, to a cancer treatment earlier in the week. The couple reportedly attended a concert in Miami on Friday night.

In a press conference Tuesday, Mayor Jerry Demings of Orange County, a Democrat, called on the governor to step up his response efforts because the omicron surge has resulted in people waiting in line as long as five hours to get tested.

"We have not received any assistance from the state of Florida at our testing sites," Demings said. "Local governments have been left to figure it out and respond on our own. We are doing our best."

“He signed into law legislation that effectively prohibited local governments from being able to take charge and lead in our fight against Covid-19,” Demings said.

"Our residents, all Florida residents should be outraged, and they should ask the question, now, where's our state? Where's our governor? Where is Ron DeSantis now? When was the last time you saw the governor do a press briefing regarding Covid-19?" Demings asked.

Following Demings' complaints, DeSantis's Twitter account tweeted a picture of him at a sweet shop in Chipley. DeSantis's office told MSNBC the sweet shop visit actually took place on Dec. 16.

The state's agriculture commissioner, Nikki Fried, said Wednesday that she had "no idea" where DeSantis was.

Fried, who's running for governor as a Democrat, told MSNBC that DeSantis "cancelled our Cabinet meeting in the middle of December" and "I haven't seen him since Dec. 17. I don't know where he is."

"Local counties and state commissioners are having to stand up testing sites," she said. "We have five-hour lines in Miami-Dade county, and he's nowhere to be found."

In her Twitter feed, Pushaw blamed the White House for the long testing lines. "Regarding tests, ask Biden, who is on vacation," she tweeted.