- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Recent editorials from Florida newspapers:

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March 11

The Miami Herald on Gov. Ron DeSantis reaction to the coronavirus:

We mean no disrespect, but when the world renown guru of infectious diseases, who’s also received the Presidential Medal of Freedom and who opened our eyes to the scourge of HIV/AIDs in the 1980s says that there has been community spread of the coronavirus in Florida, whom should we believe — Dr. Anthony Fauci, said guru, or Gov. Ron DeSantis, who says, Nope, there’s no community spread of the virus in the state?



In fact, the DeSantis administration has gone into a Trump-like denial of the coronavirus’ spread, surprising and disappointing for a governor who has been fairly transparent about the disease.

Why not confirm it first, Governor? This knee-jerk, nothing-to-see-here response is dangerous.

Fauci, a leading infectious disease expert on the federal Coronavirus Task Force, said on Tuesday that Florida is one of four states with “community spread” of the disease. In other words, some people with confirmed cases have not traveled to countries where the virus is rampant, nor do they meet other high-risk factors. How they contracted the disease, then, is not yet obvious.

DeSantis spokeswoman Helen Aguirre Ferré said, “In Broward County, the three workers at the port work for the same company, in the same location, and tested positive for COVID-19.” She says this means there’s no random spread. OK, but there’s also no indication yet as to how they contracted the disease. In the greater community, perhaps, then one infected the two others?

In a case of confirmed coronavirus in Manatee County, the state has not said publicly how the man might have contracted it.

Fauci cautions: “When you have community spread you’re obviously going to ratchet up the kinds of mitigations that you have.”

At least it should be obvious to Florida’s governor.

But this has been the perilous problem in fighting the disease: politicians pushing back against science, against the experts, against medical professionals who actually know what we must confront. That puts Floridians in even more danger, despite their still-low risk of getting the coronavirus.

Unfortunately, it appears the lab coat DeSantis donned for a recent coronavirus photo-op has gone to his head.

Online: https://www.miamiherald.com/

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March 10

The Orlando Sentinel on LGBTQ discrimination at voucher schools:

Lawmakers sometimes are savvy enough to stop juuuust short of telling an outright lie.

Not Rep. Jennifer Sullivan, who during a House debate Monday on expanding a private-school voucher program, told this whopper about an Orlando Sentinel investigation into voucher schools with anti-LGBTQ policies:

“They decided to go school by school and fabricate this picture that there are hundreds of students who are being discriminated (against) … no newspaper should co-opt this program and try to single-handedly dismantle it.”

If Sullivan, a Mount Dora Republican, had read the story, which we doubt, she would know the Sentinel fabricated nothing.

Two reporters did, in fact, painstakingly go through hundreds of policies of private schools in Florida that accept voucher students. It took months, and they found more than 150 schools with policies that expressed anti-gay sentiment. More than 80 of those explicitly stated gay students weren’t welcome. In some cases the policies threatened expulsion if a gay student’s sexual orientation was discovered.

Sullivan could go read the policies for herself in a database the Sentinel created.

The reporting focused on the discriminatory policies, not on specific acts of discrimination against students. Those probably are rare because few parents who know their children are gay would dare send them to a school where they aren’t welcome.

The policies are likely quite effective in deterring parents from putting their children through the pain and humiliation such schools would inflict on them, in much the same way mid-20th century forms of official discrimination kept most black people from breaking the rules of that era.

Sullivan likely recognizes that Florida’s voucher programs do, in fact, subsidize anti-LGBTQ discrimination. The state gets away with it - for now - because Florida law doesn’t protect people from discrimination because of their sexual orientation.

So people like Sullivan deflect and attack the messenger with, in this instance, a lazy lie.

She’s aided and abetted by people like Rep. Kimberly Daniels, the Jacksonville Democrat and pastor who once thanked God for slavery, because otherwise she might be worshiping a tree in Africa.

Daniels went full George Orwell during Monday’s debate, essentially pleading for everyone to be more tolerant of religious schools’ intolerance of LGBTQ kids.

Monday’s theater of the absurd continued with Rep. Al Jacquet, a Lantana Democrat, defending voucher schools by saying the focus should be on quality, conveniently ignoring the fact that there is no publicly available, objective measurement of quality for most private voucher schools.

In fact, another Sentinel investigation, this one in 2017, did focus on voucher-school quality, uncovering problems at schools that reporters visited. Libraries with no books or computers. Teachers with criminal records but not college degrees. Forged fire inspections. Shabby buildings. Eighth-graders doing worksheets on how to tell time.

Yes, Rep. Jacquet, let’s focus on the state’s unwillingness to impose any type of quality standards on state-supported private schools.

Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, an Orlando Democrat, tried his best Monday to reason with voucher school advocates.

He appealed for more transparency by simply requiring voucher schools to post their policies online. Or conduct a study into the schools’ policies. He got nothing.

His plea for the state to stop supporting schools that discriminate against LGBTQ kids went nowhere, too.

In the end, the House passed an expansion of the state’s Family Empowerment Scholarship Program from 18,000 scholarships last year to 46,600 next year, at a cost of about $200 million. The changes would make families with incomes of as much as $81,000 eligible for scholarships.

Officially speaking, the House voted to expand the program, but each of those yeses amounted to an affirmative vote for continuing discrimination and avoiding accountability at Florida’s voucher schools.

Online: https://www.orlandosentinel.com/

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March 10

The Florida Times-Union on funding for Medicaid

Florida pays Medicaid providers 56% of Medicare rates, one of the lowest seven states in the nation.

As a result, many physicians and dentists decline to accept Medicaid patients.

Florida, mainly leaders in the House, refuse to accept federal funds to expand Medicaid, though they continue to accept federal funds for things like roads and sewer plants. But health care for poor people? Skinflints.

Now there is another threat to health care for low-income people in Florida. The Trump administration has proposed block grants for Medicaid. If this were paired with expanding Medicaid, it would make some sense.

But tacked onto the current Medicaid structure, it looks like another attempt to cut fundings for needy Floridians.

A report from the Florida Justice Project, the Florida Policy Institute and Florida Voices for Health raises the alarm.

To make up for a loss of federal funds there would be service cuts and further reductions in already low provider rates.

Separate funding caps would be set for certain groups of Floridians. This presumes that Florida is overspending on health, which is frankly ridiculous.

There would be caps for seniors, people with disabilities, children, pregnant women and low-income adults.

Has the federal government put Ebenezer Scrooge in charge of Medicaid? Is there a limit to their cruelty?

Online: https://www.jacksonville.com/

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