- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 13, 2021

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is on a roll.

On Wednesday, Mr. DeSantis said he will pardon anyone in the Sunshine State charged for not wearing their masks or socially distancing. He delivered the news live during a Fox News interview where a couple, who own a gym in Broward County, were facing jail-time for allowing their patrons not to wear masks while exercising. 

“It’s a total overreach,” Mr. DeSantis told Laura Ingraham on Wednesday. “These things with health should be advisory. They should not be punitive.”

He said when Florida’s clemency board meets in the coming weeks, he’ll issue pardons for any Floridian who may have outstanding infractions for not wearing masks and social distancing in their local communities. 


Mr. DeSantis has repeatedly stood up to coronavirus lockdown zealots while following the science and has delivered common-sense solutions, and results, for Floridians. 

This month, he lifted all coronavirus restrictions statewide, citing the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines. His executive order also banned “vaccine passports,” saying there’s no need to be “policing people at this point.”

“I think if you are saying that, you are really saying you don’t believe in the vaccines, you don’t believe in the data, you don’t believe in science,” Mr. DeSantis said at a bill signing ceremony in St. Petersburg on May 3. 

As more people in the Sunshine State get vaccinated, Florida has seen its coronavirus death rate plummet. There was only one death in the state on Tuesday, down from a daily average in the mid-50s in April. In addition, their new case positivity rate continues to fall.

Mr. DeSantis opened the state’s schools last fall for in-person learning and when asked what his plan was for the upcoming school season, he said this week, “Our direction is fairly simple: Have a normal school year.”

The governor has also been vocal about children not having to wear masks and has advocated individual school districts to drop their mandates.

“These kids do not need to be wearing masks, OK? I’m sorry, they don’t,” Mr. DeSantis said on Tuesday. “We need to be able to let them be kids and let them act normally, and that’s what should be the case in the fall (and) throughout the school year.”

Despite the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendation that children wear masks in school, the science clearly shows that children are very unlikely to become infected with, become seriously ill or die from the coronavirus, and they are not the drivers of coronavirus spread, including at school or at home.

Mr. DeSantis has continually pushed back on federal coronavirus guidance — and has defied all doomsday predictions.

Early on he refused to allow nursing homes to admit coronavirus patients — something many blue state governors did to disastrous results — and protected the lives of the Sunshine State’s most vulnerable. He also prioritized seniors for vaccinations. Now, more than 81% of the people who have received at least one dose of the vaccination in the Sunshine State are 65 years or older.

Mr. DeSantis’ strategy was simple: Protect those most susceptible to the virus, while reopening Florida’s economy and restoring individual rights and liberties to those less susceptible. 

The gamble paid off.  

Florida’s unemployment rate is roughly 4.7%; the national average, meanwhile, is 6.1%. Although the state isn’t operating at pre-pandemic levels, its budget is in good shape, as it hasn’t had to use a penny in its rainy-day fund to cover pandemic-related expenses.

Meanwhile, the Sunshine State has more schools open to in-person learning than the rest of the country and ranks No. 2 in the nation in the percentage of graduating seniors who have passed college-caliber Advanced Placement exams, behind only Connecticut, according to data released this February by the College Board.

Last year, people from restrictive lockdown states like New York, fled for Florida. The Sunshine State was second only to Texas in its gain in population, according to Census data. The population boom helped it pick up an additional Congressional seat to give it more clout in national politics.

And, so, Mr. DeSantis is being rewarded. His approval rating has climbed to 55%, according to a poll released by the Florida Chamber of Commerce this week. 

He’s also positioned himself as a prime GOP contender for the presidency in 2024. 

Mr. DeSantis led all possible Republican candidates for the presidential primary if former President Donald Trump decides not to run, a survey conducted by the Trafalgar Group found this week.

He led all other choices by double digits.


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