DeSantis Responds to Trump’s Criticism Over Florida’s COVID-19 Response

Zachary Stieber
By Zachary Stieber
January 31, 2023COVID-19share
DeSantis Responds to Trump’s Criticism Over Florida’s COVID-19 Response
(Left) Former President Donald Trump addresses the crowd during a 2024 election campaign event in Columbia, S.C., on Jan. 28, 2023. (Right) Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks to guests at the Republican Jewish Coalition Annual Leadership Meeting in Las Vegas on Nov. 19, 2022. (Logan Cyrus, Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Jan. 31 responded for the first time since former President Donald Trump criticized his fellow Republican for how he handled the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.

DeSantis, speaking at an unrelated press briefing after being asked about the criticism, said that he faces attacks as soon as he wakes up each morning.

“If you look at the good thing about it, though, is like if you take a crisis situation like COVID, the good thing about it is you’re an elected executive, you have to make all kinds of decisions. You got to steer that ship,” DeSantis said.

“And the good thing is, the people are able to render a judgment on that, whether they re-elect you or not. And I’m happy to say in my case, not only did we win reelection, we won with the highest percentage of the vote that any Republican governor candidate has in the history of the state of Florida.”

DeSantis won a second term in Florida in the 2022 midterm elections while Trump lost his bid for a second term in the 2020 election.

Trump is running again in 2024; DeSantis, who has not ruled out a bid, is considered the strongest potential Republican challenger to the former president.

“What I would just say, that verdict has been rendered by the people of the state of Florida,” DeSantis said.

DeSantis was responding for the first time to Trump’s critiques, offered on the former president’s social media platform.

Trump claimed on Truth Social that DeSantis “unapologetically shut down Florida and its beaches” and that “Florida got it wrong” while sharing headlines from 2020.


Trump in March 2020 issued guidance titled “15 days to slow the spread,” which was aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19. In a briefing announcing the guidance, Trump said that “all Americans, including the young and healthy, work to engage in schooling from home when possible.” He also said people should stop “discretionary travel” and eating at restaurants, claiming that “if everyone makes this change or these critical changes and sacrifices now, we will rally together as one nation and we will defeat the virus.”

The guidance was crafted by Drs. Deborah Birx and Anthony Fauci and led to lockdowns across the nation, with many governors imposing harsh measures like the forced closures of “non-essential” businesses.

The 15 days was extended to 30 days and, in some cases, much longer. Trump said publicly he wanted the United States “opened up” by Easter, but went along with recommendations from Birx and other health officials even after that.

On March 16, 2020, DeSantis issued an executive order citing federal guidance that adopted many of the recommendations, including ordering the suspension of alcoholic beverage sales, ordering all restaurants to immediately cut occupancy limits and implement social distancing, and “support[ing] beach closures at the discretion of local authorities.” Multiple jurisdictions closed beaches.

Two weeks later, when Trump extended the “slow the spread” guidance, DeSantis issued another order stating that the elderly, and people of any age with a “significant underlying medical condition,” “shall stay at home and take all measures to limit the risk of exposure to COVID-19.”

The order also said that all people in Florida “shall limit their movements and personal interactions outside of their home to only those necessary to obtain or provide essential services or conduct essential activities,” such as attending church or caring for loved ones.

Easing Restrictions

As some governors, including DeSantis and Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, moved to ease the restrictions in April 2020, Trump said they should keep the rules in place, and also claimed that it was the president’s decision, not governors, to “open up the states.”

Trump later diverged from federal authorities such as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention over the authorities’ attempts to keep lockdown measures, such as remote learning, in place.

Trump told a town hall that “what I did by closing up the country, I think I saved two, maybe two and a half [million lives], maybe more than that.”

“I think we did a very good job,” he added.

DeSantis told The Epoch Times previously that he regretted imposing harsh measures.

“We wanted to mitigate the damage. Now, in hindsight, the 15 days to slow the spread and the 30—it didn’t work,” DeSantis said. “We shouldn’t have gone down that road.”

From The Epoch Times

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