DeSantis clashes with Biden as Florida faces mounting COVID surge

·3 min read

Florida now has more than 12,000 hospital patients with the coronavirus — the highest number since the start of the pandemic. Schools are about to open in the state, and the governor says new COVID requirements are out of the question.

Inside Memorial Healthcare System in Broward County, ICU beds are once again filling up fast, CBS News' Manuel Bojorquez reports.

"It has gone up 400% in the last six weeks," said Aurelio Fernandez, the president and CEO of Memorial, which recently added 266 beds to keep up with demand.

Hospitals are also facing staffing shortages. Sixty percent of hospitals in the state could see a critical staffing shortage within the next week, according to the Florida Hospital Association.   

President Biden called out hot-spot governors this week, including Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, for failing to implement restrictions, including mask mandates in schools. 

"If you're not going to help, at least get out of the way of people trying to do the right thing," Mr. Biden said on Tuesday.

DeSantis signed an executive order late last week barring school districts from forcing students to mask up, despite guidance from the CDC saying masks should be required of everyone inside K-12 schools. He signed it to "protect parents' freedom to choose" whether their children wear masks in schools.   

DeSantis said of the president on Wednesday, "He thinks that should be a decision for the government, well I can tell ya in Florida, the parents are gonna be the ones in charge of that decision."

The governor argued during a press conference in Panama City that Mr. Biden's immigration policies are responsible for the COVID surge, claiming, without any evidence, that undocumented immigrants are causing the virus to spread.

"Why don't you get this border secure, and until you do that, I don't want to hear a blip about COVID from you," DeSantis said of the president.  

The rise of COVID of Florida is because of the highly-contagious delta variant, and because of permissive behavior, said CBS News medical contributor Dr. David Agus.

"With low vaccination rates and ... going out without masks and in large groups you're going to get significant spread of the virus, period," he said.

The surge in infections in the state includes children. As of Wednesday, 135 children under 18 in Florida were hospitalized with COVID, the highest it's ever been.     

John Moreno Escobar, who is running for the Broward County School Board and whose son, Luca, will begin first grade this year, said, "the minimum we could do to protect all of the people who decided to get vaccinated or not is to put our mask on, even if we're vaccinated."

He believes it's up to parents to convince those who are hesitant.

"We are protecting others by putting the mask on," he said. "Putting a mask is protecting the life of someone else, and life is sacred and we should protect it all as a community."

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