Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis answers questions from the media in the Florida Cabinet following his State of the State Address during a joint session of the Senate and House of Representatives at the Capitol in Tallahassee, Fla., on March 7, 2023. (Cheney Orr/AFP via Getty Images)
The Epoch Times
By John Haughey
On March 16, 2020, President Donald Trump and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) issued “15 Days to Slow the Spread” of COVID-19, guidance that “advised” individuals and businesses to adopt social distancing measures such as working from home and closing many retailers and restaurants.
Citing that guidance from the CDC, many states and local governments that had not already imposed pandemic restrictions on businesses, schools, and public gatherings did so.
Among those states was Florida where, the next day, St. Patrick’s Day—a huge day for restaurants and bars—Gov. Ron DeSantis issued Executive Order 20-68, suspending all sale of alcoholic beverages for 30 days, along with a host of other restrictions on restaurants, “non-essential” retailers, and gatherings of 10 or more people in public spaces, such as a beach.
What would happen over the next two months would set the course for continuing battles between DeSantis and federal agencies, local governments, school boards, and the Biden administration over Florida’s refusal to adhere to the “experts” crafting the federal “advisories” and launch DeSantis as a leading 2024 Republican presidential contender.
By April 2020, he said, the state—and many others—could ascertain from mounting data that mask mandates were not stopping the spread.
By May 2020, he said, there was evidence the virus did not pose as great a risk to children and adolescents as missing school did. There was also research confirming those who had caught COVID-19 had developed antibodies that made them more resistant to the disease, he said.
When vaccines became available, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) rubber-stamped accelerated approvals to make the shots available—and mandatory—with little research on potential side effects and no concern for people’s individual rights, he recalled.
Yet, DeSantis said, while the CDC was wringing its hands over children in school, people shopping in shops, workers working, and diners dining, in May 2020 the agency “said it was okay to go out and protest with [Black Lives Matter], but not to go out and protest against lockdowns.”
“This was presumably a woke virus,” he said, noting that in May 2020, it was clear to him that CDC pandemic protocols were “more about them having an agenda” than about using data and science to protect public health.
‘Reality Had No Impact’
“We’re here looking at this three years out and the experts who designed these policies, the experts that were hectoring everybody, they were wrong about everything,” he said. “They were wrong about lockdowns. We were attacked mercilessly because we were not doing that. Lockdown policies did not work. They were wrong about school closures, mask mandates, antibodies,” and many other things.
Speaking at The Fire Restaurant, a steakhouse in downtown Winter Haven, on March 16, DeSantis said “reality had no impact” on how the CDC and National Institute of Allergy & Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci managed the COVID-19 pandemic despite those “flippant” decisions having direct, immediate impacts on families, businesses, and students.
Florida is still battling with federal agencies over pandemic protocols, the governor said, opposing the Biden administration’s attempt to reimpose mandatory masks for airline passengers and the requirement that foreign nationals present up-to-date vaccine records to be admitted into the country.
“For three years,” he said, “the experts got it wrong. We are not going to let this state descend into a ‘Faucian dystopia,’ allow this whole infrastructure they’re trying to impose on society to control behavior.”
DeSantis did not address the Trump 2024 campaign’s state ethics complaint that his “shadow campaign” for the GOP’s 2024 presidential nod is violating state election laws, did not update efforts in Tallahassee to get state lawmakers to repeal Florida’s “resign to run” law, did not elaborate on calling the Russian invasion of Ukraine “a territorial dispute” of little strategic importance to the United States earlier this week, nor did he respond to sharp rebukes from many congressional Republicans about that statement, a reversal from his public stances supporting Ukraine while a congressional representative in 2014.
The governor did not declare he was running for president—no one expects him to until after the Florida Legislature adjourns in early May—though he recently concluded a “book tour” to Iowa and Nevada, which are early primary states, with a mid-April “book tour” visit planned to early-primary New Hampshire.
None of that was discussed by DeSantis in the Winter Haven steakhouse. His focus was on the three-year anniversary of the lockdowns he ordered in good faith because he believed federal health agencies were following the data and science in developing policies to respond to the virus.
Now he knows better, DeSantis said, and that experience has shaped a leadership style that challenges—and betters—unelected government bureaucrats to be more responsive to leaders elected, and accountable, to the people.
As result, he said, “We saved countless jobs, kept many, many businesses afloat,” and Florida public schools’ 4th-grade reading and math scores are in the top four nationally, out-performing states such as New York and California, including in containing the spread of COVID-19, hospitalizations, and deaths, that had sustained strict lockdowns and other restrictive protocols.
The state’s economy “would have failed had we adopted the policies of other states,” DeSantis said, and other states’ economies would have fared better in the summer and fall of 2020 had they adopted Florida’s policies.
After all the criticism and “incoming” his administration received in 2020 and 2021, there’s general acknowledgment that the CDC, FDA, and Biden administration pandemic policies were a “total disaster,” he said, “Yet here we are three years later and they are still clinging to failed policies.”
DeSantis said the federal government needs to lift its ban on allowing foreign nationals entry at airports without updated vaccine records and warned that the “Biden administration is still arguing in court now to reimpose the mask mandate in air travel. You can’t make this stuff up. Three years later, they’re still trying to do that, they’re still clinging to failed policies, still pursuing an agenda.”
Feds Dispute Florida Vax Findings
DeSantis said the CDC and FDA have been obfuscating data regarding the efficacy and safety of the mRNA vaccine.
“Right from the beginning, they said the mRNA shots would prevent you from getting the virus,” he said. “We know that is not true and especially not true with the booster jabs. It’s just not true. It’s not about public safety. They are pursuing an agenda.”
DeSantis said “as the efficacy of [the mRNA shot] was coming into question, that is when they wanted to coerce people” into being vaccinated. “Biden wanted a national mandate,” he said, to impose a “jab or job” mandate on law enforcement, first responders, nurses, and truck drivers.
“We came in and stopped coercion,” he said, and became the first state to investigate claims by pharmaceutical manufacturers, the CDC, and the FDA about the efficacy of the shots with an empaneled grand jury “looking into everything surrounding the COVID jabs” and learning how decisions defied data.
“The CDC has whiffed on so many different things related to this. Now they put something out and you just dismiss it,” DeSantis said, including the CDC’s and FDA’s refusal to recognize data analysis by Florida’s Department of Health (DOH) that shows the shots lose efficacy over time and enhance health risks for many.
In a Feb. 15 letter to CDC Director Rochelle Walensky and FDA Commissioner Robert Califf, Florida Surgeon General Joseph Lapado said the state has seen a steep rise in the number of “adverse health events” reported to the national Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) by those who have taken COVID-19 vaccines.
Walensky and Califf, in a March 10 response, said Florida’s findings were “incorrect,” “misleading,” and potentially “harmful to the American public.”
The agency chiefs, along with a vast majority of other public health experts, said Lapado had incorrectly interpreted data, noting that it’s reporting of “adverse events” after receiving vaccines failed to incorporate standard “adverse event rate” ratios into its calculations.
“Focusing on adverse events in the absence of causal association and without the perspective of countervailing benefits is a great disservice to both individuals and public health,” they wrote. “Not only is there no evidence of increased risk of death following mRNA vaccines, but available data have shown quite the opposite: that being up to date on vaccinations saves lives compared to individuals who did not get vaccinated.”
Lapado, who accompanied DeSantis, double-downed on Florida’s claims about vaccine efficacy and safety.
“These vaccines have a terrible safety profile. At this time in the pandemic, I don’t think anybody should be taking them,” he said, calling the CDC’s and FDA’s objections deceitful.
“The CDC and FDA—the most consistent thing they have done is deny the truth,” Lapado said, noting the agencies still say masks prevented virus spread when data shows mask mandates “didn’t do squat” in stopping the disease.
He cited a study on the mRNA vaccines published in British medical publication The Lancelet and noted that the federal agencies don’t cite the study findings that after seven months, “protection declines by about 70 percent.”
That data “literally means the people taking that vaccine are more likely to get the virus than those who don’t. Has the CDD or FDA ever said a word about that? These guys, they’re geniuses in rewriting reality,” Lapado said, adding he doesn’t “know what the hell” the federal government is basing its policies on.
“It is not your well-being. It is not my well-being. It is someone else’s agenda,” he said. “The fight isn’t over. The rewriting of reality to control your behavior, thoughts, and beliefs—it is an ongoing battle they are fighting. Our job is to supply you with the truth, and we’re going to keep doing that.”