Editorial: Though GOP made gains in Florida, so has the coronavirus

Editorial: Though GOP made gains in Florida, so has the coronavirus 1
Editorial: Though GOP made gains in Florida, so has the coronavirus 2

opinion

We’re still in the midst of a viral pandemic.

Though it has gotten scant notice or media coverage since the Nov. 3 election, COVID-19 is still infecting, sickening and killing our families, friends and neighbors.

Indeed, much to our chagrin, the deadly disease caused by the new coronavirus has not taken a break while the nation figures out who will be the next president of the United States. Or as pollsters decipher why Florida voters refused to hold their state leaders accountable for their mishandling of the pandemic.

More: Coronavirus Florida: Editorial: COVID, COVID, COVID, COVID, COVID, COVID . . .

On Thursday, Florida’s reported total body count was north of 17,000 dead, on a day that saw reported infections rise by more than 6,000. Nationally, Americans have endured more than 9.5 million infections since the pandemic began. Suffered almost 235,000 deaths. 

We all know that it didn’t have to be this bad. That Florida didn’t have to be experiencing another major resurgence of the virus.

However, none of the grim COVID numbers appeared to matter on Election Day. Enough voters apparently bought into the need to “reopen” our tourism-dependent economy versus the need for protecting public health. Just as likely — and understandably — too many of us are suffering from coronavirus pandemic fatigue

The result: Republicans, aided by their predicted “red wave” that Democrats derided, rolled across the state. President Donald Trump won Florida in convincing fashion — the 3-percentage-point victory is almost a landslide by Florida standards. Two Democratic congressional representatives from South Florida were knocked off. And Democratic dreams of picking up seats in the Florida House and Senate went unfulfilled.

Politically speaking, Gov. Ron DeSantis and state Republican leaders deserve their self-congratulations.

Why? Because despite their state having the third-most COVID infections in the nation, hundreds of thousands of residents without jobs (and unemployment benefits), daily food lines in nearly every county and a looming budget crisis, DeSantis and his Republican cohort still managed to tighten their grip on the reins of state government. They can lay claim to helping Trump triumph in his new home state.

But we can quickly dispense with the high-fiving. These state leaders still have work to do if we are to mitigate the damaging effects of this virus.

No matter who emerges as president, things will get worse before they get better unless we resolve to do better and demand that our state leaders do the same. Public health experts expect another 100,000 Americans will die from the virus between now and the Jan. 20 presidential inauguration if the nation doesn’t shift course. With new infections increasing in nearly every state, daily new confirmed cases in the U.S. have surged 45% over the past two weeks, to a record 7-day average of 86,352.

This isn’t fear-mongering. This is just fact.

Fear-mongering is telling Americans that we are “rounding the turn” in controlling this pandemic, while conceding that “we will never control the virus.”

Fear-mongering is telling parents that their children will commit suicide if they avoid potentially infected school campuses, rather than simply requiring them to wear a face mask.

Fear-mongering is telling workers and business owners that limiting customer capacity will destroy them, while abdicating your responsibility to provide them with needed relief.

Thankfully, we are better equipped at treating those who get sick than we were nine months ago; maybe even three months ago. But too many are still dying because there’s still far too much that we don’t know about this virus.

And while vaccine development is moving at a fast pace, federal health officials say it will likely be well into next year before an effective vaccine is widely available.

Until then, it’s on state leaders to get the messaging right to help us cope with the lingering fatigue of battling this virus.

It’s also on us.

Dr. Susan Bailey, president of the American Medical Association, said there are things Americans can do now to help change the trajectory.

“Regardless of the outcome of the election, everyone in America needs to buckle down,″ Bailey said.

“A lot of us have gotten kind of relaxed about physically distancing, not washing our hands quite as often as we used to, maybe not wearing our masks quite as faithfully. We all need to realize that things are escalating and we’ve got to be more careful than ever,” she said.

Against this Editorial Board’s recommendations, Florida voters chose to leave Republicans in charge of the state Legislature.

We can only hope that the state’s Republican leadership recognizes the trust that has been placed in them, and does more to earn it.

Editorial written by the Palm Beach Post editorial board on behalf of the USA TODAY Network-Florida.

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